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London City Airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P728) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction, subject to an aeroplane being approved for a 5.5 degree or steeper approach.
The airport was first proposed in 1981 by Reg Ward — Chief Executive of the newly formed London Docklands Development Corporation. He in turn discussed the proposal with Sir Philip Beck (Chairman of John Mowlem & Co plc) and the idea of an airport for Docklands was born. Mowlem and Brymon Airways submitted an outline proposal to the LDDC for a Docklands STOLport city centre gateway in November 1981, and on 27 June1982 Brymon Captain Harry Gee landed a Dash 7 aircraft on Heron Quay to demonstrate the feasibility of the STOLport project. After planning permission problems and a public inquiry, construction began on the site (the former Royal Docks) in 1986, with the Prince of Wales laying the first stone of the terminal building.<ref name=lcacc>Template:Cite web</ref>
Queen Elizabeth II opened London City Airport in November 1987 and it since has become recognised as one of Europe's leading airports for business travel.
Just dropping a commercial airport into congested airspace (the London Terminal Movements Area (TMA)) was a challenge for the National Air Traffic Service (NATS). In the event, a new airspace authority, Thames Radar, was established to provide a radar control service and provide safe separations for London City arrivals and departures.
The airport has been extended in three stages. The runway was lengthened and the angle of glideslopes was reduced from 7.5 to 5.5 degrees, still steep for a European airport. The western apron was enlarged and a turning loop built in 2003 at the eastern end of the runway.
It has become a useful adjunct to London's larger airports, particularly for workers in Docklands, and has met its operating costs in recent years. It is an important element in the Newham labour market and, together with the nearby ExCeL Exhibition Centre, has stimulated a local surge of hotel building. On the other hand the airport flight path restricts the maximum height of new skyscrapers in and around Canary Wharf, and the management keeps a close watch on planning applications for tall buildings in the area.
Passenger access to the City of London is via a branch of the Docklands Light Railway from London City Airport DLR station, which opened in December 2005. Initially shuttle and London Bus services connected the airport to Canning Town and beyond, however they were withdrawn after the DLR station was built at City Airport.
The airport has stringent rules imposed on the noise impact from aircraft departures. This, together with the physical dimensions of the runway, limits the aircraft types that can use London City Airport. Operations are restricted to 5:30 and 21:30 Monday to Friday, with an even more restricted service on Saturday and Sunday. The airport is required to shut for at least 24 hours every weekend
LCY is at its busiest during the winter months. During the winter months a rise in total passengers is seen due to flights to ski resorts run by Swiss Airlines.
London City Airport is small compared to the other 4 London international airports but has proved important for thousands of business travellers from London's Docklands and financial district. Inside the terminal there are 26 check-in desks plus an extra 5 self-service kiosks for BA, Air France and Lufthansa. Unlike other large airports travellers benefit from the quick turnarounds and the short pier, enabling travellers to check-in as little as 15 minutes before takeoff<ref name=flyvlmci>Template:Cite web</ref>. There are 3 car hire desks, operated by Avis, Europcar and Hertz and chauffeur hire car desk operated by Quay Cars. The terminal has landside and airside restaurants and cafes, and duty free shops airside. The whole terminal is WiFi enabled.<ref name=intheterminal>Template:Cite web</ref>
There are nine gates at London City Airport and a further five stands connected via an airside bus. Outside there are two car parks, one for short stay and one for long stay, free valet parking and a new administration building called City Aviation House, which opened in 2004.
Docklands Light Rail station at London City Airport
London City Airport also has what is believed to be the closest private jet centre to central London. In 2005 the centre was voted by European Business Air News, as the best corporate aviation passenger handling facility in Europe.
Following the UK Government's White Paper on "The Future of Air Transport" and because the London Olympics will be held less than 20 miles away, plans are being made to redevelop London City Airport. Because of space restrictions this will not include either extending or building a new runway, which means that London City Airport will not be expanding to accommodate long haul aircraft. However as passenger numbers are expected to increase to between two and three times greater than their current level, accommodating these new passengers for short haul flights is what London City Airport will attempt to do.
At this time plans are only as far as document form, these include:
Phase 1, which will increase passenger capacity to 3.5 mppa, to be completed by 2015
Extending the main terminal, easterly and westerly to increase check-in and ticketing capacity.
Reclaiming the dock to the east of the terminal, to extend the apron and increase aircraft stand capacity.
The movement of the Transco Gas Valve, to again increase aircraft stand capacity.
The replacement of the Ledger building with an all purpose maintenance hangar.
Phase 2, which will increase passenger capacity to 6 mppa, to be completed by 2025
Further extending of the terminal and apron on the eastern side.
Extension of the administration building City Aviation House.
Relocation of the fuel farm, enabling the apron to be extended further westwards.
The construction of a multi story car-park to replace the current long and short stay car parks.
Phase 3, which will increase passenger capacity to 8 mppa, to be completed by 2030
The final extension of the terminal and apron on the eastern side.
With the construction of Crossrail and improved links with other parts of London, London City Airport may not be needed in 10 years time. Ken Livingstone (Mayor of London) has said that the land would be worth much more as a residential/mixed use development. The area in and around Royal Albert and George V docks has a strict height limit attributed to the airport. Nearby Canary Wharf, which includes many skyscrapers, could expand further if the airport is closed.
Furthermore, during summer of 2006, an Airbus A318 was performing landing trials to gain certification, meaning in the future, it could replace the BAe 146 (Avro RJ/RJX).