Frustrated by noise, residents near Pearson fear future as airport grows

Residents south of Pearson Airport are not happy with the number of loud, low-flying planes that fly over their homes. As the GTAA develops its "Master Plan" to double its capacity over the next 20 years, they say they haven't forgotten the airport authority's feeble awareness campaign for the Spring's runway resurfacing that sent even more planes overhead.

Some residents feel GTAA burned a bridge with them on smaller spring project

Peter Bayrachny says he has a plane roaring over his house every two minutes at peak hours and fears the GTAA's idea of distributing air traffic across all runways will just make it worse. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Residents south of Pearson airport are not happy with the number of loud, low-flying planes that fly over their homes. And as the Greater Toronto Airport Authority develops its "Master Plan" to double its capacity over the next 20 years, residents say they haven't forgotten the last-minute awareness campaign for last spring's runway resurfacing that sent even more planes overhead.

About 400 people have joined a Facebook group called "Neighbours Against the Airplane Noise." All of them have dug in their heels at public consultations with the GTAA about the airport's growth. Every ten years, the GTAA must submit what's called a "Master Plan" to Transport Canada that forecasts both the airport's growth and the impact of that growth. 

"By about 2037, 2040 the regional demand will probably be around 80 million passengers," said Hillary Marshall, vice president of stakeholder relations and communications for the GTAA. 
Hillary Marshall of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority says most people they've consulted are in favour of the airport's growth. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

Overtop a rendering of Pearson's current layout of terminals and runways, Marshall pointed out the seemingly small physical modifications that the agency would need to make to allow for the near doubling of passengers the GTAA forecasts for the airport.

"Planes are getting larger so they're carrying more people," Marshall said. Because of this, the land-locked airport won't need a large physical expansion to accommodate passenger growth, she said.

Many residents in Etobicoke's Markland Woods area are skeptical of this. People like Peter Bayrachny feel like they were blindsided by the GTAA after receiving little notice about the runway resurfacing that caused planes to divert onto a flight path above their homes. 

"You can't have a conversation in the backyard," said Bayrachny, who has lived near Pearson's north-south runway for 23 years.

He fears the expansion will bring more planes, more noise and said after this spring, he won't be able to take it anymore. The GTAA's suggestion to distribute air traffic across all runways will not make things better in his neck of the woods.

"It's certain terminology that they call 'noise sharing' and they're starting to market that as a concept," said Bayrachny.

Right now, Markland Woods sees six to seven per cent of air traffic because it is a residential area and is underneath planes on their final approach to the runways. Bayrachny fears spreading the noise, or as the GTAA calls it, "runway alternation," could increase the planes in his path by 20 to 30 per cent.

"It would just be horrendous," he said.

Local MP not happy with public consultations

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the MP for Etobicoke-Centre, has hosted and attended many consultations between airport stakeholders, the GTAA and the public. 
MP for Etobicoke-Centre Borys Wrzesnewskyj is a vocal critic of the GTAA's transparency. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)

"My job as an elected representative is to make sure that my community is aware of anything that impacts on their quality of life," he said. So far he feels the GTAA is on its trajectory of growth whether his constituents are on board or not.

"If you're a corporate citizen that has a negative impact on people's lives, people's health, people's property values, you can't take the benefit of expanding your business and not have to worry about the costs," he said.

Marshall's counterpoint touts the benefits an airport-turned-mega hub like job creation and tourism and economic boosts. She also states it plainly: "The fact is, the region is growing. The GTA's population is set to double over the next 20 or 30 years," she said. "And this airport is growing with the region."

Wrzesnewskyj said his constituents would like to see an audit of the GTAA's handing of public input gathered throughout its meetings with the public.

Marshall argued that aside from the critics, the GTAA's research shows that most of the GTA is in favour of the airport's growth.


Ali Chiasson

Reporter, CBC Toronto

From teleprompter to Associate Producer, Ali Chiasson worked many desks at CBC News Network before stepping in front of the cameras at CBC Toronto. Ali covers a wide range of breaking and feature stories and has a special knack for people profiles. Off the clock, Ali is happiest walking through Bloordale with headphones on, picking through local produce markets, sipping bubble tea and snapping pics of street art.