By The Toronto Star
Sept. 11, 2014, Toronto - A new tracking service of aircraft in and around Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport will let users see details such as flight path, destination and whether a plane is flying too low.
By The Toronto Star
The Toronto Port Authority, which operates the island airport, launches the WebTrak service
on its website on Thursday. It is not disclosing what it is paying for
the service, which includes the initial startup cost as well as annual
fees, but it is free for the public to use.
WebTrak is already in
place in more than 50 airports around the world including London’s
Heathrow and Stansted airports, Los Angeles’ LAX, New York’s JFK as well
as Toronto’s Pearson airport.
“We want to give full
transparency to our neighbours,” said Gene Cabral, Billy Bishop
airport’s executive vice-president, during a demonstration of the new
web portal. “There’s no denying aircraft do make noise. Mitigation, it
is a priority.”
The airport has had a
rocky relationship with area residents. At the annual general meeting in
September, port authority officials heard from many residents who
complained about the noise, including from an actor who complained about
loud disruptions during performances at the Harbourfront Centre.
Cabral said the port
authority is committed to dealing with noise issues. That’s why, he
says, the port authority has purchased this new Internet-based tool,
that will let anyone monitor and track aircraft near the airport, with a
computer, smartphone or tablet.
“It puts the information in the community’s hands,” he said. “You’ll be able to see a flight if it breaks curfew.”
The tracking has a
10-minute delay for safety reasons, but users will be able to see planes
moving over a map, within a 30 nautical mile radius of Billy Bishop,
showing flight paths, type of aircraft, departures and destinations, and
It will not show the
tail number of a plane on the public website, though the port authority
will have access to it. Tracked aircraft includes small private planes,
commercial turboprops flown by Air Canada and Porter Airlines, as well
Cabral says WebTrak
will give residents and businesses more information to file any
complaint with the port authority, directly through the website.
However, due to
Canadian regulations no information on military planes, police flights,
or medical evacuation flights such as by ORNGE will be available on
The island airport has
a curfew that only allows emergency flights or medical evacuations to
land at the airport between 11 p.m. and 6:45 a.m., but ORNGE flights
won’t be listed on the WebTrak.
While that specific
information won’t be available, Cabral said anyone is still free to file
any complaints. As well, users can go back and look at historical data
to pinpoint dates and times.
In 2013, the airport’s
noise management office received about 500 complaints, up from 350 in
2012. Many of the complaints were related to engine run-up noise.
The airport has two
spots where it measures noise, one on the mainland and one on the
island, and those noise levels will be displayed on the new web portal,
in almost real-time.
Airport duty manager
Michael MacWilliam, who investigates citizen complaints, said most of
the commercial flights from the island airport follow a flight plan over
Lake Ontario to reduce noise, and this web tracking program will be
able to show it.
Sometimes, the airport
will receive complaints about aircraft flying to close to an
individual’s home or condo, but the planes are actually headed for other
airports such as Pearson, Buttonville or Hamilton, so MacWilliam says
they will now have more specific information.
“Previously, you would
have to trust me, when I said it was a Piper out of Hamilton, flying at
a certain height,” he said. “Now you can see with your own eyes,
instead of reading an email.”