London City Airport

Year:1987

Duration:1 year

Cost:£34m (£88m today)

Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Construct a new airport close to London's financial district in the City and Docklands

London City Airport is an international airport in the east of London. It mostly serves the financial districts of the capital based in the City and Docklands.

The airport has a single 1,500m runway – extended from 1,080m when it opened. It also has a steep glide path to reduce aircraft noise for local residents.

The sharp glide path and relatively short runway means the largest plane that can currently fly in or out of the airport is the Bombardier CS100, which seats up to 133 passengers.

London City Airport was built on the site of the King George V Dock in 1987. The King George V was one of the 3 royal docks constructed between 1850 and 1921 – the others were Victoria Dock and Albert Dock.

King George V Dock was an important centre of trade and employment in its time. It was big enough to deal with the world's largest ocean-going ships – including the 790ft (241m) liner RMS Mauretania.

The dock closed in 1981 as modern cargo container ships grew too big for it and the other royal docks to handle.

The site provided a different type of infrastructure for the capital when the airport opened.

Difference the city airport has made

The airport has become an essential hub for business fliers in Docklands and the City. It contributes to the effectiveness of the capital's 2 financial districts.

London City is the biggest private sector employer in the London Borough of Newham. More than 50 companies onsite employ over 2,000 people.

How the work was done

London City Airport replaced what had been a major piece of London's infrastructure.

The King George 5 Dock had been a massive engineering project of its time. It took 10 years to construct and cost £4.1m (about £184m today). 900 people worked on it.

The dock covered 64 acres and included a dry dock, a swing bridge, 3 miles of road and 11 miles of new railway track.

One major challenge for project engineers was the excavation of gravel from the ground – formed by the river over many millions of years. Workers recycled what they dug up and used it to make concrete for the dock walls.

Another part of the scheme saw 6 tunnels dug under the dock's entrance to house gas, water and electricity pipes for the complex.

The former dock/airport site continues to be an important one for London's infrastructure. The government has pledged £344m to extend the London City terminal and build a new aircraft taxi-way.

"​‌

London City Airport is an engine for growth in the city… [it provides] a vital link to our regional airports and the rest of the country.

Chris Grayling

Transport Secretary, on government plans to expand the airport in 2016.

Fascinating facts

In June 1982 pilot Harry Gee landed a de Havilland Canada DHC-7 Dash 7 on Heron Quays, in the nearby West India Docks. The stunt aimed to show that a short take-off and landing airport could work on the site.

London City's original 1,080m runway meant the airport could only be used by small planes able to take off over a short distance.

Despite its early limitations, London City is now the 13th busiest airport in the UK. It saw 4.3 million passengers in 2015.

People who made it happen

  • London City Airport client: London Docklands Development Corporation
  • London City Airport construction engineers: Mowlem

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