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London City Airport marks 21 years of operations

27/10/2008

London City Airport (LCY) is celebrating 21 years of operations since the first scheduled flight departed from the Docklands airport on 26 October 1987.

To commemorate the occasion, a competition was launched across schools in Newham to produce a limited-edition bookmark. The winning entry was produced by seven-year old Joanne Badmus of Scott Wilkie Primary School. Joanne attended the airport with her parents to present her bookmark to staff at the airport’s concessions, WHSmith and Hughes & Hughes, where it will be distributed to passengers.

London City Airport shares its anniversary year with the equally successful Canary Wharf estate and the Docklands Light Railway, all with their beginnings in London’s Docklands in 1987. The three entities are leaders in bringing regeneration and employment back to an area that had fallen into decay and deprivation after the closure of East London’s commercial docks in 1981.

Owned by Global Infrastructure Partners, London City Airport is the largest private employment site in the London Borough of Newham with over 2000 people, mostly from the local area, working on site. The airport serves a total of 32 UK and European destinations with ten airlines including Air France, Air One, British Airways, City Jet, KLM, Lufthansa, LuxAir; SAS, SWISS International Airlines and VLM Airlines.

British Airways is launching a business-class only service to New York using an Airbus 318 aircraft in 2009.

The airport has earned its status of being the only airport actually in London due to its central location just three miles from Canary Wharf and six miles from the City of London. Fast transport links to the financial heart of London have made London City Airport a popular choice for business travel.

In its first full year of operating, 133,000 passengers travelled through the terminal building, a number that is passed every two weeks now. In 2007 the airport achieved a record year of growth with 2.9 million passengers. An expected 3.25 million, over 70 per cent of whom travel on business, are expected in 2008.

In 21 years, London City Airport has looked after 24,850,156 passengers and 840,763 aircraft movements since it opened.

In May 2008 London City Airport completed construction of four new aircraft parking stands together with a pier to connect them to the terminal, as well as an expansion of its departure lounge, at a cost of some £30 million - the largest infrastructure project carried out since the original construction of the airport.

Richard Gooding OBE, Chief Executive of London City Airport, has been at the helm since 1996. He said: “the initial core proposition of getting people through the airport quickly has not changed in 21 years. London City Airport has played a vital role in helping to sustain the UK’s economy, in what is essentially an island nation, by helping to get people where they need to go faster. We have also continued to be a part of, rather than just in the community, and it has been vital to bring economic success to our borough through employment and caring about our neighbours.”

Paying tribute to the airport’s passengers, customers, staff, local and business community, Richard said: “we could never have achieved all of this without the staunch loyalty and support of these many individuals.”

Richard Gooding hosted afternoon tea to mark the date with guests and long-time supporters of the airport. Guests included Councillors Pat Holland and Conor McAuley of the London Borough of Newham;  Roy Griffins, Chairman of London City Airport and Malcolm Ginsberg who worked for Brymon Airways when the airport opened; John Adshead and Stuart Innes, Chairman and Secretary respectively of London City Airport’s Consultative Committee, both of whom have served the committee since its inception 22 years ago. The event was also attended by members of staff who have worked at the airport site over the last 21 years and those London Taxi drivers who have continued to serve the airport for the same period.

London City Airport - A Brief History

The notion of an urban airport in the heartlands of the disused London Docks was originally conceived in 1981. A year later in June 1982 Capitan Harry Gee of Brymon Airways landed a Dash-7 aircraft on what is now the site of Heron Quays Docklands Light Railway station, demonstrating the viability of flying to the heart of the Docklands.

After a widely-consulted much supported planning application was approved in 1986, and HRH the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone for the terminal building on 29 May 1986. Work on the £40m project was soon under way. The airport’s Director of Operations, Policy & Planning, Gary Hodgetts, joined in May 1987 and recalls how construction was fast-tracked for completion in just 17 months, setting a standard for redevelopment and regeneration of the surrounding area of the Docklands. “I can recall a time when staff helped to make the terminal look busy when it first opened because it was a rare occasion to see passengers. It was branded a white elephant - doomed for failure. Who knew that only 21 years later, it would become such an important transport hub for Europe’s business community and firmly stamping its position as a premium London landmark.”

The first commercial flight to Paris departed from London City Airport on 26 October 1987 with a formal opening a week later by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November.

Early destinations including Amsterdam and Brussels proved popular with the airport’s niche market serving the business community.

Mike McDermott, Senior Project Manager at the airport, has also worked at the site since it was still under construction in May 1987. Mike recalls the early years: “There were only four duty managers and five security staff per shift when I joined the airport. As there were fewer than 3,000 passengers each week (now 12,000 per day) I used to assist the security team to help pass the time!”

Although there was a steady increase in the number of passengers, the types of aircraft which could land and take off from the airport were limited. The British Aerospace (BAe) 146 was the obvious choice for London City as it was virtually as quiet as the DASH-7, carried more passengers, was faster and had a greater range. However, unlike the DASH-7 which only needed a 750 metre-long runway, the BAe l46 required a 7.5 degrees approach and a runway 1200 metres long.

In 1988 another application for planning permission was submitted to extend the runway for the introduction of the BAe l46. In July 1991, after careful consideration it was concluded that the expansion of the runway would be of benefit to the economy of east London and the City. HRH Diana Princess of Wales unveiled a plaque to celebrate the re-launch of the airport with its newly extended runway. The longer runway allowed the airport to become much more viable and services to further European destinations such as Zurich began.

In 1995 the original developer John Mowlem & Co plc sold the airport to Irish businessman Dermot Desmond and the following year Richard Gooding was appointed Managing Director. Richard was employed to drive the development plans forward in order to maximise the potential of the airport.

Approval was granted in 1998 to double the number of movements 73,000 per annum. At the time of approval, Richard Gooding OBE commented that this number of movements would allow the airport to grow to the new limit over the next decade.

A new holding point was constructed in 2003 at the eastern end of the runway, allowing for an increased number of aircraft to operate at peak times.

The growth of the airport also required improved public transport infrastructure. The airport used fast ferries in the early days and later shuttle buses which ferried passengers to and from Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf. In 1999 the new transport interchange at Canning Town station was opened. The Jubilee Line Extension, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the North London Line were now just a few minutes away using the airport's shuttle buses. In 2003 work started on the extension of the Docklands Light Railway from Canning Town to the airport. Opened in December 2005 and providing a direct link to the City, over half of all passengers travelling to and from the airport now utilise the DLR.

Dermot Desmond sold London City Airport to a consortium comprising AIG Financial Products Corp (AIG-FP) and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in November 2006. AIG-FP sold its 50 per cent to GIP in October 2008.

Also in October 2008, the London Borough of Newham resolved to approve London City Airport’s application to develop further. The airport had applied for an increase in movements from 80,000 to 120,000 per annum, a move that will create a further 1000 jobs at the airport. The application was supported by leading international organisations and London's Mayor, Boris Johnson, who acknowledge the enormous contribution the airport makes to London's economy.

Editors note

Photos of the celebratory afternoon tea event can be requested by emailing Linda.Alexander@londoncityairport.com

Further information

Rupa.Haria@londoncityairport.com

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