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More planes over North Burnaby? City seeks more info on proposed flight path changes

The City of Burnaby is requesting NAV Canada provide more information on its proposal to change YVR flight paths which could see more planes flying over North Burnaby.

flight path Burnaby

The City of Burnaby is requesting NAV Canada provide more information on its proposal to change YVR flight paths which could see more planes flying over North Burnaby. (Shutterstock)

The City of Burnaby is requesting NAV Canada provide more information on its proposal to change YVR flight paths, which could see more planes flying over North Burnaby, according to a staff report that will be discussed at tonight’s council meeting.

In 2019, NAV Canada, a private not-for-profit organization responsible for planning and managing airspace in Canada, began its Vancouver Airspace Modernization Project (VAMP) to review its aircraft approach in the Greater Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island regions. The goal of VAMP is to incorporate technological advances to enhance safety, and reduce flying times, aircraft pollution, and noise levels.

NAV Canada’s proposal involves changes in its approach to procedures at YVR to include new satellite-based practices, known as Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required (RNP AR).

The proposed change would allow for aircraft equipped with RNP AR to “line up with the runway sooner,” meaning the plane would fly a shorter distance to land and consume less fuel, according to an information document from NAV Canada.

“Not only is that path defined laterally, so the route that they follow along the ground but it also allows them to fly in the vertical so that decent path allows it to be defined a little bit differently,” Christopher Csatlos, manager of stakeholder and community engagement for NAV Canada, said during an online information session.

“When those aircraft have to fly fewer miles to get to the airport, they’re flying for fewer minutes and they’re burning less fuel over those minutes. And even though we’re only talking about a few minutes per flight, over the course of several hundred thousand flights over the year, it obviously all adds up.”

Additionally, the RNP AR approach would allow descent operations to be continuous. Currently, planes approaching the runway at YVR will descend and the aircraft will level out for a while, and continue this pattern a few times before landing.

With RNP AR, aircraft can keep a steady descent path to the runway.

A graphic illustration of the continuous descent (in green) that aircraft with RNP AR would perform. (NAV Canada)

“Because that path that they have to fly is so well defined, obviously the aircraft knows exactly where it is now, how high it is now, it knows where the runway is, how high the runway is and it knows how many miles it has to descend that altitude and then the computers can figure out how quickly it needs to descend, how fast it has to go to make its way from where it is now on to the runway,” said Csatlos.

“The key benefit of that is that it allows the aircraft to be quieter because they’re not levelling out at those immediate altitudes because each time they level out, obviously to maintain a constant altitude, they have to add power on their engines, and so their engines get louder. Whereas if they can descend at continued descending, they don’t have to use as much power, and that allows them to inherently remain quieter.”

So what does this mean for Burnaby?

NAV Canada’s proposed changes outline a new flight path for Runway 26L/R at YVR. This path would “follow the Burrard Inlet downwind and eastbound before turning a southeast downwind over the north Burnaby base land base,” states the staff report.

Residential neighbourhoods north of Hastings Street, the Lochdale Urban Village, Forest Grove, and the Lougheed Town Centre would be included in this new flight path.

The new proposed arrival route for Runway 26L/R can be seen in the white line with orange dots, The blue lines are some historical aircraft tracks. The red oval is intended to highlight the parts of the route (in white) that would impact the North Burnaby Area. (NAV Canada/ Burnaby Beacon)

A closer look at the NAV Canada proposed flight path and which Burnaby neighbourhoods it would impact. (City of Burnaby)

The report says North Burnaby is impacted more by the Runway 26L/R flight path over areas in South Burnaby, due to a wider turn being required towards the airport with the RNP AR procedure.

About 40-50% of aircraft operating at YVR are equipped and certified with RNP AR, but over time this number would likely increase with new planes.

“It is also not expected that 100% of RNP AR-equipped aircraft will fly the curved approach due to operational considerations such as traffic levels, aircraft sequencing, or weather,” said NAV Canada.

What about noise?

The noise analysis from the proposed 26L/R flight path indicates the majority of ground level noise in North Burnaby would be around 55 db(A) with a slight increase to 60 db(A) in the Lougheed Town Centre area and surrounding neighbourhoods.

This range of noise level [55 db(A) to 60 db(A)] is loud as a “normal conversation between people,” states the staff report.

The report adds that these levels are common in North Burnaby for existing arrivals and departures.

Feedback and next steps

NAV Canada opened a public consultation process regarding the proposed changes between Dec. 6, 2022, and Feb. 3, 2023. A public open house took place in Burnaby in January. Burnaby city staff also met with NAV Canada to assess the outcomes of the proposal.

The city said that as of Jan. 28, it received 14 emails specifically about the potential heightened noise impacts on North Burnaby neighbourhoods.

Residents stated they “already face adjacencies with various construction activities, traffic, and uses such as the Parkland Refinery, Westridge Terminal, marine industries, and the Rail Corridor,” reads the staff report.

Residents also wanted to know if other flight paths had been considered and what the frequency of flights would be for the 26 L/R path, and if any risk analysis of the path had been conducted over industrial areas like the Parkland Refinery.

The city has outlined several requests to NAV Canada in order to learn more about noise impacts.

This includes asking NAV Canada to: provide more information regarding the frequency of existing and future flight paths and overlay footprints; work with staff to better understand how the noise footprint levels would impact residents living in highrises (with consideration that the tallest mix-use building proposed in Lougheed Town Centre would be 850 ft above ground level); work with partners to collect noise measurements in Burnaby to establish baselines of existing noise levels near flight paths; and install Noise Monitoring Terminals near Burnaby flight paths.

Staff also want to work with the Vancouver Airport Authority to explore the city’s membership on the YVR Noise Management Committee (ANMC), a consultative body with no executive authority. The committee allows a forum to learn and discuss information about aircraft noise management issues related to YVR aircraft operations.

Before it makes recommendations for next steps, NAV Canada is expected to produce a community consultation report that takes into consideration the public and municipal input it received.

Staff are also requesting NAV Canada follow up with the city before its final recommendations are made “in order to discuss possible options to refine and improve the VAMP proposal.”