Airlines flying too low risk fines up to $25,000

By Robert Frank

Jetliner noise bothering you? You’re not alone. From Pointe Claire to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, The Suburban has heard from residents complaining about jumbo jets flying over residential neighbourhoods.

The increased traffic is due to repair work that has shut down one of the three runways that serve Trudeau International Airport in Dorval.

“[It] will be closed for maintenance until the end of October,” Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) spokeswoman Stéphanie Lepage told The Suburban.

Since the two runways still in operation are parallel, residents are seeing aircraft more frequently. However, as Lepage explained, the airport applies a strict policy to minimize the impact of intrusive aircraft noise on neighbouring communities.

“Large aircraft like Boeing and Airbus airliners have to go straight up until they reach 3,000 ft, before they make a turn,” she said, “though smaller, less noisy aircraft like turboprops can make their turn any time after takeoff.”

In practice, that means that big southwest-bound planes taking off from Dorval must be over Lac St. Louis before they turn toward their destination.

“Aircraft that large can’t [attain an altitude of 3,000 feet] before reaching Lac St. Louis,” Lepage confirmed, adding that exceptions are permitted “when there is a lightning alert. Depending upon the weather, they might have to bypass [thunderclouds].”

Deviations are sometimes necessary for safety reasons, concurred Ottawa-based Nav Canada spokesman Jonathan Bagg in a telephone interview. “An example would be an aircraft deviating to avoid thunderstorm cells. When this occurs an Aviation Occurrence Report is submitted to Transport Canada.”

Last month, The Suburban witnessed one big plane after another flying low over residential neighbourhoods in Dorval and Pointe Claire in short succession.

According to Transport Canada regional spokeswoman Leslie Husbands, airlines that break noise abatement rules face fines up to $25,000 per infraction. 

“It depends on type of infraction and if it is recurrent,” she told The Suburban, “so someone who is a first-time violator will not be paying the same fine as if it were their third or fourth infraction.”

“In this case ADM handles noise complaints within a 10 nautical mile radius of the airport,” added Bagg. “Breaches are referred to and enforceable by Transport Canada.”

“Residents who want to complain can call our customer relations line at [514] 633-3351,” said ADM spokeswoman Lepage, “or they can fill in a form on our website”

Lepage noted that ADM has gone to great lengths to limit sound pollution in the vicinity.

The airport restricts most takeoffs after midnight and landings after 1 a.m., and prohibits older, noisy aircraft entirely.

To stay abreast of local noise concerns, ADM also convenes representatives from Montreal, Dorval, Pointe Claire, St. Laurent for quarterly meetings with Transport Canada, Nav Canada, the Quebec government, airlines and airport management.

Transport Canada also publishes a list of corporate aircraft offenders on its web site.
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