One name that Toronto is known by is “a city of neighbourhoods.” There are 140 official distinct individual community identities and the people who live there, with residents taking great pride in their particular slice of the city. The Waterfront is a signature Toronto neighbourhood with essential attractions, harbour access and a still-developing community to the east.
My own experience in Toronto is tied closely to the Waterfront and its neighbourhood airport. I grew up in Northern Ontario, pumping floats, fueling and loading planes. Eventually, I started to fly Cessna, Beaver and Otter aircraft that my family operated from various regional bases. As a young child, I would ride in planes landing at old Toronto Island Airport. I admire the Royal York Hotel, which dominated the skyline in those days.
I moved to Toronto initially for high school because of limited schooling options in the north. There has always been something special about the now-named Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport for me. As a teenager, I would ride the streetcar to the airport. Sometimes cutting afternoon classes to get enough hours for my pilot’s licence, which I earned on my 17th birthday. Years later, I would move to the city permanently, and it has been my home for more than three decades.
Growing up around a family aviation business, and learning to fly, at the Island Airport, produced that initial spark – to realize that an airline could not only be based, in downtown Toronto, – but be a success. It’s been almost 13 years since Porter officially launched from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, with two aircraft flying back and forth to Ottawa. Today, we operate 29 Bombardier Q400s and fly to 23 destinations across North America.
Behind the scenes are 1,500 team members who make it all happen; most of whom live in Toronto and the surrounding area.
The airport itself has transformed over this time to accommodate the 2.8 million passengers moving through it each year. The ability to walk or take public transit to the airport is a significant convenience for passengers and for the two thousand plus people who work there. It also reduces traffic in the surrounding community. 41% of people who made their way to the airport last year walked, biked, took the airport shuttle or public transit; the highest percentage of any airport in North America.
Changes at the airport have occurred in step with the developing Waterfront and to meet the travel requirements of a thriving city. If you haven’t been there in some time, you may not recognize it. Gone are the days of waiting for the airport ferry. If you do take the ferry, I highly recommend the view of the CN Tower, especially on a warm summer morning. There is an 853foot tunnel under the Western Channel, once again, vastly improving the flow of traffic in the area. Once inside the terminal, you’ll find new food and retail options and plenty of seating –renovations completed in 2018 more than doubled the size of the lounges.
Most recently, the airfield was completely modernized, with significant upgrades to the runways and taxiways, the installation of new energy efficient lighting, and the construction of a Ground Run-up Enclosure (GRE) designed to reduce sound associated with aircraft engine maintenance procedures. Last year, there wasn’t a single noise complaint related to engine run-ups.
As a waterfront community member, Porter supports a range of local events and organizations. Neighbours near and far have been able to experience different areas of the airport for themselves and meet our team at Doors Open Toronto. Last year, teams tried their hand at pulling a 37,000-pound Q400 aircraft at the ALS Canada Plane Pull fundraiser. We also spend time at the Waterfront Neighbourhood Centre, including during the Christmas holidays when our team delivers gifts to adopted families and seniors.
“ TORONTO’S URBAN AIRPORT FULFILLS MANY COMMUNITY NEEDS”
One initiative that I’m quite proud of is our relationship with Hope Air. Growing up in Northern Ontario, I know how difficult it can be for smaller communities to access medical care. Porter provides seats to Hope Air to assist families with medical travel, so they can get the care they need at Toronto’s distinguished hospitals.
The airport is also contributing to a developing plan led by the city that will see Bathurst Quay transform into a public plaza focused around the Canada Malting Silos.
This will increase access in the vicinity of Eireann Quay and improve the public realm space.
Toronto’s urban airport fulfills many community needs and has so much potential to drive economic growth and connect residents with affordable air travel. We’ll continue to work with Ports Toronto to balance the needs of the airport and community interests because Toronto is not just our hub; it is our home.
PRESIDENT, CEO PORTER AIRLINES