Pilots, flight instructors concerned over closure of Buttonville air traffic control tower
Katherine DeClerq, CTV News Toronto
Published Monday, November 12, 2018 7:23PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2018 7:25PM EST
The air traffic control tower at Buttonville Airport is scheduled to close in January, leaving pilots flying in and out of the airport concerned about their safety.
NAV Canada, the company that owns and operates Buttonville Airport, said that an aeronautical study recommended the closure of both the air traffic control tower and the contract weather office.
According to a statement from Jonathan Bagg, the senior manager of public affairs for NAV Canada, the study included a “thorough and rigorous” analysis in consultation with customers and stakeholders.
“(The study) showed that air traffic control service was no longer required for safe operations and closing the tower would not negatively impact the safety of aircraft operations.”
Instead of going through the traffic control tower, pilots will use a mandatory frequency system that requires them to speak with other pilots to determine when to take off and land at the airport. One flight instructor described the system as having “no referee.”
“We are basically negotiating on the radios as to who gets to do what, when,” Mark Brooks said.
“We can’t undermine the safety of folks in the air (and) on the ground,” said pilot Phil Lightstone.
Robert Seaman, the General Manager of Buttonville Airport, said that the airport is located in “the most built up and congested area in Canada, if not North America.”
“In our conversations with NAV Canada, they have compared us with Mirabel, Red Deer, Kelowna. Those are all airports that are in the middle of nowhere.”
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that he supports NAV Canada’s decision.
Buttonville is slated to close for redevelopment, but delays could mean the airport will remain open until at least the spring of 2023.
The tower is scheduled to close on Jan. 3, 2019.
With files from CTV News Toronto's John Musselman