After a largely unsuccessful day before at RAF Brize Norton, Wednesday, 5 March was spent at London-City Airport, a place where my only previous visit had come with the Swift Aerobatic Display Team when we flew in for the 2009 “Fun Day”.
On that occasion, it being a Saturday afternoon, when the airport is closed to commercial traffic, it was impossible to get a feel for the day-to-day running of the place. Making use of the FlightStats website in the days before our visit, I was utterly shocked to see just how busy the airport is, with around 200 scheduled daylight movements!
On the subject of daylight, my day began just before 0400! I’d stayed at the easyHotel at Hillingdon near Heathrow the night before and was scheduled to meet fellow GAR colleague Paul Filmer, with whom I’d be spending the day, at Staines Railway Station to catch the very first train of the day into London and then out on the Docklands Light Railway to Cyprus, where we alighted.
It was a crisp, clear morning, and the sun was just on the verge of breaching the horizon as we left the station – one of the two British Airways A318s arriving back from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport providing the first movement of the day.
There was only one thing for it, and that was head to the Sir Steve Redgrave Bridge (A117), knowing that the famous sight of Canary Wharf and the financial district would soon be illuminated.
OK, so it perhaps didn’t work quite as well as we’d hoped, but it was certainly very different and the stream of traffic fairly incessant; Embraers, Fokker 50s and BAE146s being the mainstays, plus the occasional Do-328, Dash 8 and even a SAAB 2000.
We steadily worked our way across the bridge, as did the sun. The fact the airport has no taxiway means that departing aircraft have to backtrack down the runway, and while there is a loop at the departure end, it’s only big enough to accommodate a couple of aircraft at a time. This means that the air traffic operation has to be particularly slick, and it is.
As the mad rush started to subside, shortly after the second BA A318 had arrived and the first one had once again departed, we decided it was time for breakfast, and so took a wander finding a café close to King George V DLR Station. The monstrous plateful that was presented to me was a tad more than I could handle, but it, and the accompanying brew, was most welcome.
Set up for the day, we got on the train for one stop to London City Airport. We knew there was a car park viewing area and set about finding it. It was decent without being outstanding. The main issue was that aircraft on the runway, save for at the far eastern end, were ‘missing’ their wheels!
Still, the brightly coloured façades on the University of East London building provided an interesting backdrop for anything landing or commencing its take-off roll.
Activity levels were far removed from those at the start of the day but there was still enough to maintain interest for a few hours.
By early afternoon the big bank of cloud that had slowly been making its way from the West finally reached us, and it looked like the prospects for the rest of the day were rather bleak. We decided to up sticks and head to the Connaught Bridge at the west end. Unfortunately, that one’s not made for people, however, and there was nowhere at all that offered a view over the airport, so we headed back from whence we came.
Somewhat surprisingly, the cloud was breaking up as it reached us, and we had another fairly sustained period of sunshine before eventually deciding we’d had our fill for the day.
It had been a very different, wholly pleasant day out and one that had provided plenty of interesting and unusual images for the collection.
I shall be back!