Historic photographs of London City Airport dating back to the early 80s have been released to mark its 30th year.
The capital’s only airport was officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on November 5, 1987 and the images show key moments in its history as well as the transformation of the Royal Docks transport hub.
They include shots of Prince Charles laying the foundation stone in 1986, Princess Diana opening the extended runway and The Queen’s corgis disembarking from the royal aircraft.
The collection has been compiled from the London City Airport archive and the personal collections of longstanding staff members, including Vic Abbott, a NATS air traffic engineer who has been at the airport since it opened and documented its early days.
CEO of London City Airport Declan Collier said: “2017 is going to be a significant year for London City Airport, as we prepare to reach the tremendous 30th anniversary milestone in the autumn. Since the airport opened in 1987 it has undergone a remarkable evolution, continuing to attract primarily business travellers thanks to our close proximity to central London and a customer experience defined by speedy check-in and arrival times.
“Collectively over 30 years we’ve enabled nearly 53 million passenger journeys, remained the only London airport actually in London, and become one of the largest employers in the London Borough of Newham. I look forward with anticipation to the next chapter, which includes a £344 million development, construction for which begins later this anniversary year.”
The concept for an airport in London’s Docklands was conceived in 1981 by Reg Ward, the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) Chief Executive and Sir Philip Beck, Chairman of John Mowlem & Co plc, the major construction company, and took just 18 months to construct between spring 1986 and October 1987.
The photographs include a test flight landing of a De Haviland Dash-7 aircraft on the derelict Heron Quay (now part of the Canary Wharf development) in June 1982, which helped prove the premise for an airport in London’s Docklands.
In one shot from 1992, by Vic Abbott, a British Aerospace 146 aircraft is seen approaching London City Airport from the west, with One Canada Square in Canary Wharf – then the tallest building in the UK – completely isolated with none of today’s recognisable London buildings on the skyline.
The airport initially operated routes to Paris, Plymouth, Brussels and Amsterdam, welcoming 8,235 passengers in its first full month of operation. Today the airport serves nearly 50 destinations and in 2016 welcomed a record-breaking 4.5 million passengers over the course of the year.
As part of preparations for the 2017 anniversary, a special pamphlet from the 10th anniversary in 1997 was rediscovered which demonstrated the airport had royal approval. In a foreword from HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, he wrote: “The Queen opened London City Airport 10 years ago and I can only imagine that the developers must have held their breath as they waited to see whether this somewhat unconventional airport was going to be a success. I think it was a brilliant idea, but then I found it to be wonderfully convenient. I once made it in 19 minutes from Buckingham Palace.”
The 30th anniversary year in 2017 will also see the start of the £344 million City Airport Development Programme, comprising seven new aircraft stands, a parallel taxiway and an extended passenger terminal, with completion expected by 2025.
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