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Unseen retro photos of London City Airport released to mark the start of the 30th anniversary year

11/01/2017
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London City Airport has released several images dating back to the early 1980s to mark the start of its 30th anniversary year in 2017. The airport, conveniently located less than 6 miles from the City of London, was officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on 5 November 1987.

The photographs published today are 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.

The wider selection includes fascinating shots of Prince Charles laying the foundation stone in 1986, the opening by The Queen in 1987, and the completed airport during the late eighties and early nineties, as well as the former site in London’s Royal Docks, which was transformed during the mid-eighties to become the home of the international airport.

Declan Collier, CEO of London City Airport, 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.”

London City 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.

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.

Photographs published today include the 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 particularly striking 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’s 30th anniversary year will crescendo towards celebrations of the official milestone in the autumn. 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 7 new aircraft stands, a parallel taxiway and an extended passenger terminal, with completion expected by 2025.

A commemorative 30th anniversary book is also being written by Malcolm Ginsberg, to be published later in the year.

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