By Jessica Lovell
If it seems like the airspace above Guelph is getting noisier, the Region of Waterloo International Airport is not to blame, says airport general manager Chris Wood.
In fact, the number of landings and takeoffs at the nearby airport, which is located just west of the Royal City, are down 11 per cent this year, said Wood. He offered the statistic in response to an inquiry related to a complaint about increased air traffic over Guelph.
Of late, local resident Stefanie King has been noticing the noise of the planes, which seem to be flying much lower. “It is obvious Guelph is directly on their flight paths,” said King in an email to the Tribune.
“We never had air traffic noise before this. Now you can hear the jets roar by overhead, in the middle of the day, at dinner time and in the evenings, and they fly so low it’s scary! It is definitely noise pollution,” said the St. George’s Park neighbourhood resident.
But Wood said she should not be surprised to find out that many of the flights she’s been spotting overhead are not starting from or stopping at Waterloo.
“It’s a very, very busy area as far as airplane traffic,” he said of Guelph.
Many flights that pass over are actually flying to or from Toronto, but if people want to know for sure, the Waterloo airport can look into it, he said. “If you have times and dates, we can actually research that,” said Wood. “We can pinpoint what the source is.”
The airport has a section of its website that is dedicated to noise complaints. It asks for details about place, date and time and will follow up with complainants if requested.
Because plane takeoffs and landings as well as the airspace are all monitored by air-traffic controllers, it is possible to track down the information about where the planes were going to or coming from, said Wood.
It is also possible to tell how low a plane was really flying, he said.
Often when a person perceives a plane to be flying extremely low, it’s not actually the case, he said.
For example, someone may complain that a plane was flying as low as 700 metres up, only to have an investigation reveal that it was actually at 7,000 metres, he said.
Their heights are also controlled by air-traffic controllers, and the rule is “safety first,” Wood said.
King didn’t go as far as registering a complaint with the airport, but rather just wanted to bring the issue to the attention of others in the community – if they haven’t already noticed.
“The noise is shocking,” she said. “It would be nice if they could change the flight plans so they don’t fly directly over Guelph, especially if they are going to fly that low.”
But she noted, “I’m not starting a petition or anything like that.”
It would not be completely outside of the realm of possibility for the airport to change its flight patterns due to public complaints.
Late last year, the Waterloo airport was dealing with numerous complaints about noise related to the early-morning takeoffs of charter flights to Baffin Island.
It seems the Nolinor Airlines flights were particularly noisy due to the equipment required for the planes to land on gravel runways on Baffin Island, said an airport news release.
The airport and the airline worked together to come up with a new departure schedule, announcing a later takeoff time in the spring of this year.
Since the change went into effect, noise complaints have been “way fewer,” said Wood, although, he couldn’t give precise numbers.
The airport has a noise-management meeting scheduled for Sept. 4, he said.
In the meantime, people with complaints are encouraged to report them online by visiting the
airport’s website, www.waterlooairport.ca.
By Jessica Lovell