Busy dramatic London sky earlier today. An Airbus A300B4 of DHL on approach to Heathrow's runway 27L (at around 3,000 feet and descending on the ILS glideslope), while a BA Embraer E190 crosses paths at around 2,000 feet on approach to City Airport (they are using runway 09 today). Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Arriving home is, and will always be, a captivating experience.
I grew up in the days before London City Airport (LCY) was built. The airport is a Short Take-Off and Landing facility (STOL) located in the east of the city (next to Woolwich, and the Docklands). Back then, in the early 1980s, the site where the current runway is situated was nothing but a long stretch of concrete which was occasionally used as a docking port by container ships (hence the name Docklands).
The airport is surrounded by the water-filled Royal Albert and King George V docks to the north and south respectively. Due to the airport's proximity to Central London, and the surrounding residential areas, it has stringent rules imposed to limit the noise impact from aircraft operations. This, together with the physical dimensions of the 1,508 m (4,948 ft) runway and the steep glideslope (it's at 5.5 degrees as opposed to the stranded 3 degrees approach angle at most airports including Heathrow), limits the aircraft types that can use London City Airport.
The size and layout of the airport and overall complexity caused by the lack of taxiways mean that the airport gets VERY busy during peak hours. It poses a challenge for the air traffic controllers because there is only one runway in use with a limited taxiway. Operations are restricted to 06:30 to 22:30 Monday to Friday, 06:30 to 13:00 on Saturdays and 12:30 to 22:30 on Sundays. These restrictions are related to noise.
You may think that living in a quiet London suburb 15 miles away from the airport, such as Dulwich, would not be an issue when it comes to noise. Well, it does pose a problem, especially when LCY is using runway 09 (due to the Easterly winds, which account for around 40% of the year...around 90% of which falls in the summer months)...then it causes problems because landing aircraft come in LOUDLY over South-East London before turning around over Central London to land at runway 09. From my experience I find the main noise issue is with the older aircraft (BAe 146, and the Fokker 50) whose engines make that screeching noise as they speed in over SE London at a speed of around 200 knots at 2,800 feet.
When the airport originally opened, the airport's officials promised the London community that noise would be kept at a minimum because they would have aircraft operating with 'quieter' engines. While that may have been the case with the likes of the BAe 146 and the Fokker 50 back in the 1980s...it is no longer the fact because these aircraft are far more nosier than the modern jetliners of today's era (Airbus A318, and some of the private jets that fly into London City Airport are quiet).
However, for the moment, residents in South-East London can only hope that runway 09 is not used as much (I am sure the same problem occurs for residents of Barking and Dagenham when runway 27 is used for around 60% of the year). It's not that bad on the whole because the noise activity only happens during peak hours...but imagine having a BBQ in the garden and a jet screams past overhead every 5 minutes or so!
London City Airport is a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) airport located in the east of London.
London City Airport’s runway designators ‘28’ and ‘10’ are the abbreviated magnetic runway headings of 280° and 100°. These headings are used to identify the direction in which the runway was being used.
As the earth slowly orbits in a circular path, the direction from a fixed object, like the airport’s runway, to magnetic north is constantly moving.
The direction of magnetic north decreases by approximately eight minutes of a degree every 12 months, therefore every seven and a half years it is altered by one degree. The amount of annual change depends on where in the world the fixed object is located.
In the UK, there is a directional change moving west which causes the runway heading to decrease. This means that the magnetic heading of the airport’s runway has moved by almost 10°since being established in 1987. Consequently London City Airport’s runway designation was changed to 270° and 090°, abbreviated as ’27’ and ‘09’.
A team of staff and contractors worked throughout the night to change the airport’s signage and paint markings. It's amazing how they manage to get all of this done overnight without any confusion or problems- the paperwork to change all the airport charts and the navigation charts can be mind-boggling.
It may be at least 50 years before the runway designation needs to change again at London City Airport.
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