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Previously unseen photographs released to mark London City Airport’s 30th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 18:19 11 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:19 11 January 2017

On June 27, 1982, Captain Harry Ghee lands a plane on the Heron Quays (now part of the Canary Wharf development) to prove the concept of a short take-off and landing airport in the Docklands (picture: London City Airport)

On June 27, 1982, Captain Harry Ghee lands a plane on the Heron Quays (now part of the Canary Wharf development) to prove the concept of a short take-off and landing airport in the Docklands (picture: London City Airport)

London City Airport

The sights and sounds of planes coming in to land in the Royal Docks are familiar ones to most people now – but just three decades ago, things were very different.

Eurocity Express (later London City Airways) and Brymon Airways De Haviland Dash-7 aircraft on the westerly apron of the airport in 1988, looking west towards Royal Victoria Dock and the present-day site of the ExCeL (picture: Vic Abbott) Eurocity Express (later London City Airways) and Brymon Airways De Haviland Dash-7 aircraft on the westerly apron of the airport in 1988, looking west towards Royal Victoria Dock and the present-day site of the ExCeL (picture: Vic Abbott)

This year, London City Airport celebrates its 30th anniversary, and to mark the milestone, it has released 30 images – some previously unseen – to chronicle its history.

The idea to have an airport in east London was conceived in 1981 by Reg Ward, then the chief executive of the London Docklands Development Corporation and Sir Philip Beck, chairman of construction company John Mowlem and Co.

It took just 18 months to build, between April 1986 and October 1987, with the first commercial departure taking place at the end of that month.

It was Captain Harry Ghee who took the honour of being at the helm of the first flight, transporting passengers to Paris Charles de Gaulle – one of just four routes it operated, with others going to Plymouth, Brussels and Amsterdam

During the first month of operation, the airport welcomed 8,235 passengers – a far cry from the 4.5 million who passed through its terminal last year.

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.”

Among the striking photographs released include the river boat, which ran a 35-minute shuttle service between the airport and Charing Cross until 1993, and a rarely-seen view of inside the air traffic control tower.

One amusing image even shows the Queen’s corgis descending the stairs of the royal aircraft during a visit.

The airport has had royal connections all through its construction, with Prince Charles laying the foundation stone in 1986 and the Queen officially opening it the following year.

In fact, a special pamphlet from the 10th anniversary in 1997 was 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.”

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