London City Airport

London City Airport is a small airport, primarily dealing with business and corporate travelers for London’s financial district, the City of London. It is located within the Docklands region of London itself, and in 2008 was the 15th busiest airport in the United Kingdom; impressive, considering its size.

The concept for an airport within London itself – the major airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, are still within the London Circular but are nevertheless far from the financial hub of the city – arose in 1981, by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC). The idea took hold immediately, particularly when a survey of residents living around the proposed site showed the vast majority supported the idea. Detailed planning permission was eventually granted in 1986, with the airport officially opening on 31st May 1987.

The reason for this vast development is the size of London City Airport itself; while it serves a major city, the airport is not a hub for international travel. It has always had one runway only, and due to environmental concerns this is unlikely to ever change. The runway itself is extremely short.

London City AirportAnother factor is the glide scope of the airport. A glide scope is the angle at which an aircraft can approach an airport; essentially, the bigger the jet, the wider the glide scope needs to be. Considering the airport was placed in the center of the city, next to urbanized residential areas, a glide scope of 5.5% was introduced – so steep that, during the time of its opening, only two commercial aircraft could actually land at London City Airport. The glide scope was later widened to 7.5%, but this is still much narrower than usually afforded, and combined which the small runway, the airport will never cater to jumbo jets.

It is for this reason that London City Airport is known as a STOL port; a short take off and landing airport, designed primarily to be used by small aircraft – usually left than 40 seats. A further restriction against long haul flights has also been introduced, in that no flights depart or arrive at the airport between 12.30pm Saturday and 12.30pm Sunday – this, again, is for noise abatement reasons and to allow the local residents a break from the disturbance. Helicopters are not allowed to use the airport at all, for the same reasons.

The airport is, nevertheless, thriving. In 2008, it dealt with around 3.2 million passengers – a 12% increase on the year before. A redevelopment is planned, which is expected to take usage up to 8 million passengers per year; however, the one runway will be unaltered for this.

Like the runway itself, the terminal of London City Airport is small, with just 22 check in desks and 14 departure gates; positively minuscule by modern standards. A transatlantic service has been introduced, but the majority of flights are to European business destinations such as Paris and Amsterdam. One neat facet of the terminal is that free Wi-Fi is provided throughout, ideal for the business passengers that the airport primarily deals with. The airport is also easy to reach, as it has an accompanying Docklands Light Railway station and Underground line.