Planes diverted around Toronto skies while Canada's busiest runway gets a facelift

Airlines are taking unusual approach paths to Pearson International Airport while the airport's busiest runway undergoes a major construction project.

East-west Runway 05-23 will be closed for repairs until mid-May

Planes will use alternate flight paths during construction. (Mike Hillman/CBC News)

Flight paths around Pearson International Airport are being disrupted while the airport begins a major construction project on the country's busiest runway.

Crews have already started work on a portion of Runway 05-23 and the tarmac is scheduled to be completely shut down on April 24.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) is laying down a new surface and a series of rebar dowels to underpin the new materials. The work is expected to keep the runway shut down until May 16. It will re-open for the summer travel season before a final round of construction begins in October.

"Because we have to go in and do the underpinning of the runway essentially, we're adding a lot of time to it," said Lars Olsson, the GTAA's manager of aviation programs, compliance and coordination.

"This one is over and above what we would normally do."

More traffic on north-south runways

With the airport's busiest landing strip unavailable, the GTAA and Nav Canada, the private, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation system, will direct planes to use different flight paths that are not frequently used in and out of Pearson.

"People might be seeing more planes in different areas that they might not be used to seeing them," said GTAA spokesperson Shabeen Hanifa. "And people who normally see planes more often might not see as many."

The GTAA says the increased traffic will be most noticeable to the north and south of the airport.

Coun. Mark Grimes, who represents Ward 6, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, says his constituents began noticing the activity shortly after construction began.

"Emails were lighting up at city hall, my Facebook page was lighting up with [concerns] of increased traffic," he said.

Grimes said many residents were unaware there was construction taking place and feared the new traffic would be permanent. But for those upset with even the temporary changes, Grimes has asked the GTAA to examine if it can find any short-term solutions.

"We've asked to look at if there's any way to share the pain with other runways so we're not the ones taking the brunt of the traffic," Grimes said.

In a letter to Grimes, the GTAA says it will consult with Nav Canada to "encourage a more balanced use of the available runways for the remainder of the project."


  • An earlier version of this story said planes from Pearson International Airport will be using new flight paths during construction work on a major runway. In fact, the flight paths already exist. They are simply used infrequently.
    Apr 15, 2017 1:23 PM ET