Being a good neighbour

The Region of Waterloo International Airport is committed to being a good neighbour while running a safe operation.  Our goal is to balance passenger, industry and stakeholder needs with those of the surrounding community. There are many factors that contribute to airport noise. 

Waterloo Region is located under the busiest airspace in Canada. That means that many flights travelling over our community have nothing to do with our airport.  These are called overflights and include:
  • passenger and cargo flights to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • cargo flights from western Canada to Hamilton International Airport,
  • and, flights from the United States heading east to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What is noise?

Noise is a phenomenon that is present in the modern world. It is defined as sounds that are undesirable or disturbing. Generally speaking, the louder a sound, the more disturbing it is. Sensitivity to noise, can vary greatly from one person to another and even from one moment to another: two sounds of the same intensity may be perceived in very different ways.

For example, some people enjoy listening to a very loud rock concert even though the sound level can sometimes exceed the hearing-damage threshold. But somebody who doesn't like rock music or is engaged in an activity that requires concentration will be disturbed if they are near the same concert. 

2. How is noise measured?
Sound energy travels in waves and is measured in frequency and amplitude. The energy in a soundwave can be measured using Decibels dB(A) a unit of measurement that indicates how loud a sound is.  
3. How do aircraft generate noise?
There are two main sources of aircraft noise: engine noise and aerodynamic noise. Aerodynamic noise is caused by the flow of air around an aircraft in flight. When an aircraft takes off, and is using maximum thrust, engine noise is predominant. When a plane lands, the aerodynamic noise produced can be as loud as the engine noise as the power setting of the engine is reduced.
4. Are there differences from one type of aircraft to another? 
Engine technology has improved greatly in recent years. Some older, smaller aircraft can be as noisy as the latest-generation wide-body jets. The acoustic performance of each type of aircraft are characterized by three noise-level measurementsThese three noise levels are measured on approach, takeoff under full power and, overflight

The procedures are defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and take the mass of the aircraft and the number of engines into account. Based on ICAO standards, aircraft are divided into three generations, called "chapters":

Chapter 2 Aaircraft: Older aircraft, dating from before 1972. They are equipped with earlier-generation engines. With few exceptions, these aircraft have not been allowed to fly in Canada since 2002.


Chapter 3 Aaircraft: The majority of commercial aircraft currently in operation. Note: Some Chapter 2 aircraft have been fitted with noise-reducing devices, called "hush kits" making them somewhat compliant with Chapter 3 standards. They are louder than aircraft that are certified Chapter 3 when built.


Chapter 4 Aircraft: A new noise-certification standard introduced in 2002. All new aircraft built after 2006 must meet this standard.

5. What types of aircraft operate at the airport?
All passenger transport aircraft operating out of Waterloo Region are certified to Chapter 3 or Chapter 4. Where general aviation is concerned, there are still a few small Chapter 2 aircraft, but they are exceptions. 
6. Why are small aircraft flying in circles around the airport and over my house?
The Region of Waterloo International Airport is home to one of the largest flight training schools in Canada. As a result YKF is the busiest training airport in Ontario. As part of their training, pilots must learn to fly in a circuit. A circuit is a standard flight pattern that provides an orderly flow of traffic for smaller aircraft using any airport. Pilots need to perform circuits many times to achieve skill. They must stay in the circuit until they receive permission from Air Traffic Control to land.
7. Are aerobatics allowed at the Airport?
Yes - we have a designated block of air space located over the airport property. Pilots can perform aerobatics with permission from air traffic control. Due to the nature of aerobatics, it is much safer to practice near the airport. That way air traffic control can keep other aircraft a safe distance away from the practice area.
Aerobatics is the practice of flying actions at heights not used in normal flight. 
8. I hear noise during the evening. Are airplanes allowed to take-off or arrive at the airport overnight?
On occasion aircraft arrive and depart overnight and in the early morning hours. These can include medevac and some cargo flights. Many flights operating overnight are going to and from other airports, like Hamilton and Toronto Pearson. These are called overflights. The Region of Waterloo International Airport tracks overflight noise concerns .
The airspace above the airport is available to air traffic 24 hours a day. NAV Canada manages all airspace in Canada.
9. What is an overflight?
Waterloo Region is located under the busiest airspace in Canada. This means, some flights you hear passing overhead at night are from aircraft travelling to other airports - these are called overflights and include:
  • passenger and cargo flights to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport
  • cargo flights from western Canada to Hamilton International Airport,
  • and, flights from the United States heading east to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2014 there were 47,936 overflights within a 10 nautical mile radius of YKF, at up to 15,000 feet above sea level. This diagram shows the overflights that occurred on July 16, 2015, a typical day in the skies above our airport. For larger image of overflight diagram.

For questions about overflights in Waterloo Region contact us or Transport Canada at 1-800-305-2059.
Noise Concerns
10. Can the overflight paths be changed to rural areas so fewer people are disturbed?
There are no approved or unapproved flight paths over the ground.  Aircraft may fly over all areas in our community.  Certain flight paths are chosen to reduce the use/cost of fuel, and the flight time. 
11. If these aircraft are not landing at the Region of Waterloo International Airport, why can we hear them? 
Many factors cause aircraft noise to be heard. Aircraft arriving at Hamilton or Toronto Airport start their descent over Waterloo Region. These aircrafttypically are between 6,000 and 12,000 ft. above the ground. 
Temperature and moisture in the air can also change the intensity of a sound. For example, when the air does not hold any moisture or when there is minimal humidity sound travels farther. Other factors that change the intensity of the sound include:
  • wind speed and direction
  • precipitation
  • cloud cover and height
Also, the type and size of an aircraft may have a significant impact. Some overflights are cargo aircraft which may be older, the Boeing 737-200, Boeing 727, or DC-10. Transport Canada approve these aircraft to operate in Canada and they meet all noise emission standards.
12. How can I submit an aircraft noise concern? 
You can submit an aircraft Noise Concern online or by calling 519-648-2256.
13. How will my noise concern be addressed? 
The Airport tracks, analyses and responds to all noise concerns upon request. We have access to aircraft data within 10 nautical miles of the airport and up to 15,000 feet above sea level. We analyze each noise concern using our Flight Tracking System. These results are provided to the Aeronautical Noise Advisory Committee (ANAC) each quarter for review.
14. What are the Airport's hours of operation? 
The Airport is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. There are no night time restrictions or curfews.  Pilots have permission to arrive and depart at the airport any time of day. Aircraft operations between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. are rare (less than 1% of all arrivals and departures each year.)
15. Is there a curfew for aircraft arriving and departing at the airport?
There are no curfews. The airport is a public-use facility, open 24-hours a day, and aircraft are permitted to depart and arrive without restriction. Most commercial airports operate in this fashion.

Circuit flights for training are not permitted on Runway 08 between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. EST. This restriction avoids flight training circuits over the built up areas of Kitchener, west of the airport.
16. Who determines which runway is used for a take-off or landing?
Weather conditions dictate runway use in most cases because aircraft land and take off into the wind. Operating conditions are also a consideration, these include:
  • runway length
  • aircraft type
  • air traffic
  • construction
For example, a temporary runway closure for repair work will move traffic onto the other runway.
The Airport has published suggested Preferential Runway in the Canada Air Pilot, a document issued by NAV CANADA. The Airport's Preferred Runway Rules state that: between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. EST (local time) and consistent with safety of operations, pilots should select runways in the following order of priority:

 1.  Runway 08  1.  Runway 26
 2.  Runway 14  2.  Runway 32
 3.  Runway 32  3.  Runway 14
 4.  Runway 26  4.  Runway 08
17. What are the scheduled flight times for airlines?
For an up to date schedule of flight times visit: Arrivals & Departures.