The largest commercial plane in the history of London City Airport has touched down on the runway.
The Bombardier C Series made its maiden voyage from Zurich to Docklands on Tuesday, August 8, landing at 5.47pm.
It is being phased in by Swiss International Air Lines to replace its Avro RJ100 fleet and offers “significant reduction” in perceived noise according to the airline.
The change is a timely one as days earlier it was revealed noise complaints about the airport had increased four-fold over the last year.
The C Series features Pratt and Whitney geared turbofan jet engines which allow the back section to run faster, contributing to 20% lower fuel consumption, and the aluminium front blade to run more slowly and quietly.
Swiss said this, and improved aerodynamics, meant noise levels had been halved or reduced by up to 15 decibels to the human ear, making the C Series the quietest aircraft in its class.
During initial tests it was quieter than its predecessor, the Avro, and two decibels quieter than the Embraer 190 which British Airways uses at the airport.
Swiss’s C Series Fleet Chief Peter Koch has spent five years working with Bombardier to fine-tune the design.
His main concern was making it capable of coping with the short 1,200m runway and steep approach into London City Airport.
Most commercial runways operate a 3.5 degree approach but Newham’s is 5.5 degrees and the C Series cockpit features an innovative holographic, heads-up display to help pilots negotiate the descent more safely. In April the aircraft received official certification to carry out the manoeuvre.
Peter sat in the jump seat for the inaugural flight, which was piloted by Captain Guilherme Lee and Captain Daniel Nater, and said: “This really is a historic day.
“There has been a long time of planning to get here and is a very special landmark we have reached, in partnership with London City Airport and Bombardier.”
The aircraft, which has a 35.1m wingspan, was greeted by the traditional arch of water fired from two airport fire engines, as it arrived in the Royal Docks and passengers were treated to biscuit replicas of the C Series.
London City Airport chief commercial officer Richard Hill said: “This next-generation aircraft is one of the quietest in operation, with greater fuel efficiency and longer range, setting a new standard for Swiss operations and London City.”
He said the noise reduction was “proof” they were working to address the concerns of the community.
Swiss has ordered 30 C Series from Bombardier and will deploy them on the Geneva to London City Airport route from next summer.
The aircraft is capable of flying 2,350 nautical miles meaning routes to North America and the Middle-East are feasible in the future.
And, although its large wingspan means London City can only deal with two C Series at a time, a £350million expansion project due to start later this year will include seven new stands, all big enough to accommodate the aircraft.
The in-flight experience
We flew out to Zurich on a Embraer 190 and back on the first commercial C Series flight which lasted 1hr 50.
The difference was immediately apparent with the larger oval windows flooding the interior with light.
A futuristic silver glow to the decor and more rounded overhead lockers also help to create a feeling of space. And there is actually 25% more storage room on the planes according to Swiss and there was plenty of storage beneath the seats.
Business class does not mean plump reclining chairs but it does buy a few centimetres of extra room between seats and a row of two or three to yourself.
On the outward flight one passenger spent 10 minutes searching for his lost mobile whereas the C Series offers two neat mesh pockets on the seat back, the perfect size to safely store a smartphone and bottle of water.
The seats do recline slightly but the passenger behind you will notice the squeeze.
The steeper than average descent was barely noticeable and inaugural flight ended with a smooth landing and round of applause.
The list price for each plane is £65million, although Swiss did not reveal if this is what it paid under its contract.
Improved fuel efficiency will equal a saving of around 25% per seat for the airline, compared to the Avro.
Bombardier designed the C-Series to hold up to 133 seats but the airline has chosen to only have 125 and only sell 108 of these to allow space for the business class configuration up front.
The savings are unlikely to be reflected in ticket prices as a spokesperson said Swiss bases these on “offer and demand” rather than aircraft type.
A return from London City Airport to Zurich currently costs from £102 for economy and £374 for business class.
How is measures up
-35m long, 11.5m tall. 35.1m wingspan, 3.7m fuselage
-2 pilots, 3 flight attendants
-32-33 inch seat spacing in business class
-29 inch seat spacing in economy
-max speed of 871 km/h
-103,6 kN thrust per engine
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