Photo exhibition marks 30 years of London City Airport

PUBLISHED: 10:33 26 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:33 26 October 2017

An aircraft approaching in 1992 Picture: Andrew Holt

An aircraft approaching in 1992 Picture: Andrew Holt

Andrew Holt

On October 26, 1987, a flight from Plymouth carrying around 40 passengers touched down in the Royal Docks.

The Royal Docks in the 1980sThe Royal Docks in the 1980s

It was to be the first of more than 1.5 million flights that have landed at London City Airport in the 30 years since, welcoming 55.5m passengers in that time.

It was just over a week later, on November 5, that the airport was formally opened by the Queen.

But the idea for the airport was first conceived six years earlier, when the docks closed to commercial shipping traffic.

Reg Ward, the chief executive of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and Sir Philip Beck, chairman of construction company John Mowlam and Co, developed the concept for an inner city airport.

Planes at the airport in 1987 Picture: Vic AbbottPlanes at the airport in 1987 Picture: Vic Abbott

It became the first completely new airport to be built in the UK for 40 years, taking 18 months to complete at a cost of £34 million.

When it first opened, it served just three destinations with two airlines - a far cry from today, where 12 airlines serve 46 destinations in 16 different countries.

Chief executive Declan Collier said: “Over the past 30 years, London City Airport has become an intrinsic part of London’s transport system; growing responsibly to a record-breaking 4.6 million annual passengers in 2016, creating local employment, and connecting business and leisure travellers with the UK, Europe and beyond.”

To mark the airport’s 30th anniversary, a photography exhibition has been unveiled in Canary Wharf to chronicle the airport’s history.

A Dash 7 at London City Airport in 1988 Picture: Andrew HoltA Dash 7 at London City Airport in 1988 Picture: Andrew Holt

It includes pictures from Greenwich-based aviation photographer Ben Walsh, aerial photographer Andrew Holt and Vic Abbott, an air traffic control engineer who has worked at the airport since 1987.

The images demonstrate the rapid change that has taken place in London over the past three decades, showing how it looked when familiar sites in the capital’s skyline such as the O2 and the Gherkin did not exist.

Closer to home, the images hark back to a time before the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, when One Canada Square was a solitary tower, and a series of buildings to the north of the airport that have since been replaced by the University of East London.

The modern-day photographs were taken by Ben, who scaled the roof of the nearby Tate and Lyle sugar refinery and climbed to the top of the air traffic control tower during a three week project to get the perfect shot.

The disused docks in 1982 Picture: Andrew HoltThe disused docks in 1982 Picture: Andrew Holt

He said: “This was a fascinating commission by London City Airport thanks to its unique location and the speed of change which has taken place in east London and the surrounding city skyline.

“With my specialism in aviation photography, to see this work presented in Canary Wharf alongside the originals brings in to sharp focus the airport’s 30 years of achievement.”

The exhibition is divided into six sections, which are largely chronological in order. The first section examines the Royal Docks before the airport was built on the peninsula between Royal Albert Dock and King George V Dock.

Others include the construction of the airport in the 1980s, the early days and the longstanding relationship with royalty.

The check-in area in 1987 Picture: Andrew HoltThe check-in area in 1987 Picture: Andrew Holt

The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in May 1886 and in addition to officially opening the airport, the Queen also visited again in 2002 and 2012.

Diana, Princess of Wales, attended in 1992 to open a runway extension and meet air traffic controllers.

Mr Collier added: “London City Airport’s success story is a remarkable one and this exhibition allows us to tell it to the public, beyond the walls of the airport, in a creative way.

“The airport is part of the fabric of London’s Royal Docks and to see these photographs truly brings to life the role the airport has played in east London’s regeneration.”

A plane takes off from the airport Picture: Ben WalshA plane takes off from the airport Picture: Ben Walsh

London City Airport: 30 Years in Photographs can be seen in Jubilee Place in Canary Wharf from October 26 until November 7.

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