Behind the Scenes: London City Airport – Morning time at LCY – Inspecting runway lights and the runway with the operations team
- Behind the Scenes: London City Airport: The Introduction
- Peak rush to London, aLoft ExCe
- Morning time at LCY – Inspecting runway lights (THIS SECTION)
- Ramp Operations
- At the JetCentre
- Ramp Walk 1
- Ramp Walk 2
- From the Tower
- Watery Inspections with the Fire Service
- Leaving London and Final Thoughts
Just before 05:15 I rocked up at the terminal entrance and made my way in. I declared myself – and one of the two hosts of the day welcome me to the airport.
I was then given an overview of the operation and the check-in area – seeing the support for airlines at London City is growing. They also mentioned a little timesaver for those travellers who have items to check in – the option to self tag bags. After this, it was time to head through Staff and Crew Security (through the most nondescript door), and after completing the usual aviation security, my escort and I were cleared to proceed.
We checked in with the Operations Team where I was greeted, and given an overview of what operations do for the airport – from checking runway lights are all working, to giving the go order open or shut the airport, to reporting on conditions on the tarmac. Which for the day of my visit – was soaking wet.
The truck waiting to take us on inspection
For the first part of the check, we needed to go off site to inspect the Instrument Landing System Lights (ILS) to check all the lights were functional. For LCY, this means taking a truck out into the local area, and inspecting ILS from local bridges.
Looking towards 09 (Towards Canary Wharf)
Looking towards 27 (Towards the JetCentre at London City Airport)
London City has one physical runway, but two approaches and departure points (like most runways). Departing from/Landing on Runway 27 heads towards Canary Wharf, whilst departing/arriving on Runway 9 heads towards the Thames.
This can be fun when boats decide to exit moorings and close bridges, but the ops inspector was in contact with tower to switch on and off the lights as needed, checking for blown bulbs.
Bulbs both on the ILS and on the Runway/Taxiways/turns are normally changed in the shut-down period LCY has every week – when the airport shuts to traffic from 12:30 on Saturday to 12:30 on Sunday. Emergency repairs can also be done if there are some major lighting failures – contributing to the safety factor.
Once the external checks were complete, it was time to re-enter airport premises. As there was traffic at the entrance to the airport (called the airlock for vehicles entering the secure side), my escort and I disembarked and re-cleared security.
Another member of the ops team met us to continue to the air-side check of broken bulbs, checking through the taxiways, and the runway itself driving up and down the full length of the runway.
In the truck, looking down runway 27 towards Canary Wharf
Checking the runway makers are working near Alpha
Even first thing in the morning, there’s traffic on the runway – a fire service truck completing its sweep.
Looking up runway 9
The ops inspector was in constant contact, asking sections of lights to be switched off and on as needed, and noting which lights were dead – or not (for example one light was out on a Wigwam – an active runway light indicator – to which the response from control “Which is out – wig or wam” comes over the radio).
Whilst it was Friday, it was a professional discussion – and much like a family at work – that came over a lot during the visit.
After the runway inspection was passed (the first of four during the day), it was coming up on 06:25 local. This is the point where control of the runway is handed over from London City Airport Operations to NATS (National Air Traffic Services – or NATS Holdings), where the 1,500 meter concrete pavement turns from a piece of concrete to an active runway where planes are allowed to land. During the communication, conditions are also broadcast on the runway (on the day I was there – wet was the condition of the day).
Timing is critical at London City Airport as the airport has major restrictions in operational times due to noise:
- Monday to Friday – 06:30 to 22:00
- Saturday 06:30 to 12:30
- Sunday 12:30 to 22:00
For the operations team, it’s important to keep to those times as there is a risk of fines operating outside those hours, and the fact the first plane is due to push-back at 06:30 and the first arrival into the airport isn’t far behind.
And as we pulled into towards JetCentre and Ramp operations, you can tell the pride the operations team have working there – and the consideration to safety needed to operate the airport professionally.
And that matters a lot.
Next up: Ramp Operations
Disclosure: London City Airport kindly supplied a hotel room at aLoft ExCeL to me to assist in this visit. Some details and factual information has been provided by London City Airport Corporate Communications Department.
All opinions expressed within this trip are my own, represent my own personal thoughts and my observations during the visit.