The roar of planes in proposed new flight paths over Winnipeg could meet with an uproar from neighbourhoods they fly over.
Nav Canada is proposing changes to flight paths to shorten flight times and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The changes are facilitated by a new satellite-driven technology called Required Navigation Performance (RNP).
The changes will mainly affect flight paths through Headingley, Tyndall Park and south Winnipeg.
It shouldn’t increase planes into those areas, said Nav Canada spokesman Jonathan Bagg, but would congregate some plane routes as they funnel towards Richardson International Airport.
Currently, planes fly in a fairly wide swath as they come into Winnipeg from various directions. The proposed changes would narrow the swaths.
Some homes could have a few more planes fly overhead, while others could see a few planes that once flew over a house fly to the east or west instead. Other homes could see a few planes that flew to the east of one’s home now fly on the west side, Bagg said.
Over Headingley, the flight path for some planes from the north will move slightly east, closer to Winnipeg.
Over Tyndall Park, the routes of some planes will be less dispersed and follow a narrower flight path. However, planes are still very high over this part of Winnipeg at 7,000 feet.
Over south Winnipeg, about 2,000 planes per year currently do U-turns or right angle turns near the Perimeter Highway before angling northwest to the airport.
4 to 5 flights per day affected
The proposed flight path changes will tighten the turns of about four to five planes per day, Bagg said.
Those turns are at the very south end along the Perimeter Highway. Planes then follow the Red River north before crossing Pembina Highway at McGillivray Boulevard.
The flight paths of departing planes, when engines are at full throttle and loudest, won’t be affected until they are too high in the sky to be a nuisance, Bagg said.
More information is available on Nav Canada’s website, navcanada.ca/ywg. Nav Canada is Canada’s air navigation service provider.
"Overall, I would characterize these changes as minor but ones that have significant environmental benefits," Bagg said.
The changes would save up to three minutes per flight, 300,000 litres of fuel per year and 800 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions: the equivalent emissions of 14,000 car trips from Winnipeg to Brandon, said Bagg.
The flight path changes also allow more continuous aircraft descents, which is when planes are quietest because their engines are idle.
Only about 20 per cent of commercial aircraft have Required Navigation Performance, so the changes would phase in gradually. The technology is expensive and likely to be adopted only with the purchase of new aircraft.
Nav Canada predicts only 35 per cent of planes will have the technology by 2025.
"RNP allows us to employ shorter routes to the airport" because it is more precise, Bagg explained.
Open-house meetings on changes
Consultations will target areas where people see the most airplanes, Bagg said.
Open houses are scheduled for:
- March 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Headingley Community Centre;
- March 9, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Valley Gardens Community Centre; and
- March 18, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at Four Points by Sheraton.
Tyler MacAfee, director of corporate communications for the Winnipeg Airports Authority, said Nav Canada has been talking about the new technology and flight path changes for a while and has spoken to the Canadian Airports Council.
Nav Canada has also consulted directly with the WAA over the last few months, MacAfee said, adding the new system is Canada-wide and will be implemented at several airports in the country.
The WAA is now preparing to engage with the public on the changes and making plans to do so, he said, emphasizing the importance the authority places on consulting the community.
The public’s voice will be heard, MacAfee promised, and said changes and tweaks will be made based upon the public’s input at the open houses.
"I think everyone will be a little bit different on this," he said in terms of how he expects Winnipeg area residents to respond to the Nav Canada plan.
He said only 20 per cent of aircraft are capable of adopting the new technology.
"People won’t see a dramatic change overnight," MacAfee said, adding modern technology ensures aircraft engines are at their quietest when landing as the aircraft virtually glide towards their landing runways.
— with files from Greg Lockert