London City Airport, which gives convenient access to London’s Square Mile, was closed yesterday after an unexploded 1,000-pound World War II-era bomb was discovered in the early hours of Sunday morning. It is believed the bomb was found in the River Thames during airport improvement work, the airport runway being between two old shipping docks. Airliners and business aircraft had to make alternative plans in what is a very rare, but not unknown, occurrence in London.
After the discovery on Sunday, in the George V Dock that runs alongside the airport, officials shut down operations Monday while the bomb was made safe. More than 200 departing and arriving flights were cancelled and around 16,000 passengers were affected.
Families in the area were evacuated as an exclusion zone was created, and London’s Metropolitan Police said it was working with Royal Navy bomb disposal experts to remove the bomb.
Robert Sinclair, CEO of London City Airport, said, “All flights in and out of London City on Monday are cancelled and an exclusion zone is in place in the immediate area.” In an online video, he added that the bomb was due to be taken out into the Thames Estuary at around 11 p.m. local time today and that the airport would then be open as normal on Tuesday.
According to the Met Police, “The device has been examined by Met Police and Royal Navy dive teams and is confirmed as being a 500-kg tapered end shell measuring approximately 1.5 meters. It is lying in a bed of dense silt and the first stage of the removal operation is to free the shell from the silt so that it can be floated for removal. The operation to remove the ordnance is ongoing in partnership with our colleagues in the Royal Navy. The timing of removal is dependant on the tides; however, at this stage we estimate that the removal of the device from location will be completed by tomorrow [Tuesday] morning. While every effort is being made to progress the operation as quickly as possible, it is important that all of the necessary steps and precautions are taken to ensure it is dealt with safely."
Various airlines operate from London City including British Airways operating Embraers, Cityjet operating Avro RJs and various turboprop operators such as Flybe and KLM. Some airlines were understood to have moved flights to other London airports, such as London Southend. Along with Avro RJ scheduled operations, the airline Swiss has been operating Bombardier C Series CS100 airliners into London City since August last year.
Thirty years since it opened, London City Airport is now the 14th busiest in the UK with 4,540,000 passengers in 2017, according to CAA data. The airport is planning to increase capacity further, and wants to build over the old dock so it can have a full parallel taxiway and seven more parking stands. The £400 million ($550 million) City Airport Development Programme was approved by British ministers last July.
It has become popular for business aviation, too, although parking is limited and is likely to remain so for GA. The airport’s JetCentre is only three miles from Canary Wharf and five miles from the city. It has long been used by the likes of NetJets, and last December Surf Air Europe set up an operation at the airport using Embraer Phenom 300s and Pilatus PC-12s, in conjunction with operator Flair Jet, having launched in the UK in June. It operates a weekday route to Zurich, Switzerland, and to Sion, Switzerland, on Sundays and Fridays.