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Private pilots have major beef with Porter

June 10, 2013, Toronto – A group of private pilots who fly out of Toronto's island airport have turned to the Federal Court, claiming the local port authority has failed in its oversight role by allowing Porter Airlines to evict them from its hangars.


June 10, 2013
By THE CANADIAN PRESS

June 10, 2013, Toronto – A group of private pilots who fly out of Toronto's
island airport have turned to the Federal Court, claiming the local
port authority has failed in its oversight role by allowing Porter
Airlines to evict them from its hangars.

There are no hangars devoted to general aviation on the island,
so many private pilots, flight schools and other businesses who use
Toronto's Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport rent space from Porter
FBO Limited, a company related to the airport's main tenant, Porter
Airlines.

In an application filed to the Federal Court, the Toronto Island
Pilots Association alleges Porter has forced a number of its members
out of the airport by jacking up their rent by as much as 300 per
cent or terminating their leases.

The association argues this violates the Tripartite Agreement
that governs the island airport, which has been the subject of
controversy over the years as island residents have vocally opposed
its expansion.

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The agreement, which was signed in 1983 by the city, Transport
Canada and the port authority's predecessor, the Toronto Harbour
Commissioners, states the purpose of the airport is for general
aviation and "limited'' commercial flights.

The Port Authority oversees operations of the airport to make
sure they're in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement. But Julian
Falconer, a lawyer representing the pilots association, says the
port authority is simply handing the reins over to Porter Airlines.

"Porter has been given a blank cheque to run affairs at Billy
Bishop Airport in circumstances where the Tripartite Agreement
dictates exactly the opposite,'' Falconer said.

"The airport should be renamed to the Bob Deluce Island Airport,
because that's the level of control and influence,'' he added,
referring to Porter's chief executive.

However, Porter said it plans to increase the amount of space
available for personal aviation, not decrease it, and it only
terminated some leases in order to do renovations.

"In the longer term, we do anticipate that there will be more
space than was originally available for (personal aviation),'' said
Porter spokesman Brad Cicero.

The airline also said rent increases of 33 per cent were more
typical, reflecting comparable rates at other airports in the
region.

"We don't agree with the pleading that the pilots association
has made,'' said Cicero.

"We don't think it's accurate, and we'll definitely be defending
ourselves through the court process.''

The Toronto Port Authority said it would not comment on the case
because it is before the courts.

"The Toronto Port Authority supports and is committed to a
continued personal aviation presence at Billy Bishop Toronto City
Airport,'' spokeswoman Pamela McDonald said in an email.

Porter recently announced it hopes to fly jets out of the island
airport, a move that will require the airline to fill in part of the
lake so it can extend the runway by 168 metres at each end.

The plan will also require approval from all three groups
included in the Tripartite Agreement. It has become the subject of
much debate, with some residents raising concerns about noise and
increased traffic congestion.

Toronto city council has commissioned a study that will explore
the proposed changes.

The pilots association argues that Porter's rapid growth has been
at the expense of the general aviation community _ something the
Tripartite Agreement was meant to preserve.

While the pilots association says the term does not apply to
scheduled air services or commercial airlines, Porter contends that
the Q400 turboprop planes it flies qualify the airline's activities
as general aviation.

Falconer said he hopes the case will go before a judge by the
fall.

The pilots association alleges that as a result of Porter's
actions, a number of private pilots and other businesses have been
forced to sell their planes or leave the island airport.

In an affidavit, the president of the Airborne Sensing
Corporation says his aerial photographic survey company was evicted
from the hangar space it was renting from Porter Airlines on April
30, 2012.

"Recently, there has been a mass exodus of General Aviation
businesses and pilots from the Island Airport because of evictions
and/or because their rent for hangar space or tie-down space has
significantly increased,'' said Alexander Giannalia in the
affidavit.

However, Porter said it gave Airborne Sensing the option of
staying on in some capacity, which the company declined.

Giannalia's affidavit lists a total of seven pilots or businesses
who have received rent increases from Porter and four whose leases
have been terminated.

Island Air, the last of three pilot schools still operating out
of the island airport, was almost shooed out as well, said Falconer.

"The Tripartite Agreement created checks and balances to ensure
that a downtown airport wouldn't become Pearson, flying over
everybody's neighbourhoods,'' said Falconer.

"But in fact, the opposite has happened. The Port Authority, in
my view, has completely abdicated its oversight role. And, frankly,
we're at the stage where it's the wild, wild west. The rules have
been thrown out the window.''