By Jessica Lovell
There’s no mistaking this one for a bird. It’s definitely a plane, and it’s loud.
Though only a handful of Guelph residents have had occasion to complain about airplane noise from the nearby Region of Waterloo International Airport, it’s likely that many have noticed it, particularly in the last couple of months.
“We have a new airplane that operates at our airport,” airport general manager Chris Wood said of the reason for a recent increase in noise complaints. “It’s an older airplane with louder engines.”
The plane is a Boeing 737-200, flown by Quebec-based Nolinor Aviation. The company recently began flying charters out of the Breslau airport to a mining operation in Nunavut. Wood admits it is louder than the other planes that use the airport, but he says it meets Transport Canada’s noise standards and is legally licensed to operate in Canada.
“It’s the difference between a 40-year-old car versus a new car,” he said.
The noise of the plane prompted one west-end Guelph resident to raise the issue with Ward 4 councillor Cam Guthrie, who then posted the resident’s email on his Ward 4 blog.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that I can hear it in the enclosed basement of my home. It seems to be serving as our family’s new alarm clock,” the email said.
“I purchased my home in 2002 on Freshmeadow Way and have never been made aware by Transport Canada, the City of Guelph or the Region of Waterloo that my home would be under a flight path,” it said.
It goes on to ask what the city is doing to inform west end residents about the travels of this new, noisy aircraft over their homes.
City staff are making inquiries with the airport in an effort to find out what kind of impact public complaints might have on the flight paths of its aircraft, said Guthrie.
“I’m unsure of whether they take complaints from Guelph with the same seriousness as the ones from Waterloo,” he said.
The complaint he posted on his blog this month is the first he’s heard this year, he said.
But he noted that when he mentioned the issue to his wife, she wasn’t surprised to hear there had been a complaint about airplane noise.
“She immediately said, ‘they have been pretty loud lately,’ ” Guthrie said.
This year, the airport has heard only nine noise complaints from Guelph, said Wood. It’s a number he referred to as “statistically insignificant.”
Those complaints have not all been related to the old Nolinor planes, either. “Some of then are arriving airplanes, some of them are departing, some of them are the air show in June,” Wood said.
Some of the complaints might not even be related to planes travelling to or from Waterloo Region, he said.
“There’s a lot of air traffic over Guelph going through Pearson, as well,” he said, noting that it is part of one of the busiest airspaces in Canada.
Overall, though, the airport is dealing with more noise complaints. They’ve jumped to 300 or more this year from just 98 in 2012, Wood said.
The complaints are tracked for statistical purposes, and, if it’s requested, the airport will investigate and follow up with the person who made the complaint, he said.
But they are not likely to bring about much change.
In the case of the Nolinor planes, the flights are all heading north, but which direction they take off depends not on where the most homes are located, but on which way the wind is blowing, Wood said.
There is a large buffer between the airport and Guelph, he said, so the northbound flight shouldn’t be travelling directly over the city. “It’s supposed to turn to the north right away,” said Wood.
Regardless of the challenge of dealing with increased complaints, the Nolinor flights are good news for the airport, he said.
“From a financial perspective, it’s been a huge windfall for the airport,” he said.
The flights run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, carrying a combination of passengers and cargo. The rest of the week, the airline runs cargo flights to Nunavut, carrying everything from food to trucks for the mining operation, said Wood.
The original estimate of $400,000 that the flights were expected to generate in increased revenue for the airport is too low. It will definitely be more, said Wood. “How much more, we’re not sure,” he said.
Overall, it’s a positive for the region’s economy, creating jobs and bringing business to hotels, busing companies and the like, he said.
“It’s a huge win for business,” he said.