New figures from Victoria International Airport show noise complaints have taken off through 2020 compared to last year.
Whereas the 2019 noise incident report from the airport shows a total of 43 complaints through 12 months, the corresponding number for the first nine months of 2020 is 52, according to figures from Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations.
The nature of the complaints has also changed. Whereas propeller planes were responsible for eight complaints in 2019, they bore responsibility for 27 complaints for the first nine months of 2019.
Sidney Coun. Terri O’Keeffe said earlier this month in her role as a member of the airport’s noise management committee that COVID-19 has contributed to the change by encouraging more recreational flight traffic.
While the pandemic decreased large-scale commercial air traffic featuring wide-bodied planes, the number of smaller, recreational planes in the air rose, she said.
“With COVID-19, they found more people were staying home,” she said. “So there was more recreational flying going on. There was also an increase of people practising at the flight school, so a lot of people going out to do that.”
With the number of commercial aircraft flights down, prior airspace restrictions for smaller planes also expanded, she said. This change led to complaints from areas of Sidney, where residents had not previously complained, she said.
The Victoria Flying Club has strict rules against flying after 10 p.m. “They are very conscientious about not wanting to disturb residents,” she said. “However, flying schools on the (provincial mainland), usually Boundary Bay, are not as concerned.”
Notably, O’Keeffe’s comments suggested that the number of smaller planes in the air could go up in the future, as flight schools across the country look to meet a growing demand for commercial pilots.
“Within Canada, there will be a shortage of 7,300 commercial pilots by 2025,” she said. “Even with the capacity of all training centres across the country, they will only be able to turn out 4,000 new pilots. So there will be a shortage of over 3,000 pilots.”
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