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What Aircraft Types Can Use London City Airport?

London City Airport (LCY) is one of the most tricky and challenging airport to fly in and out of in all of Europe. So much so that pilots need extra qualifications in order to be allowed to operate flights to the tiny airport located in the heart of one of the largest cities in Europe. Its complicated approach and short runway make it useable only by certain types of plane. That’s exactly what I’ll be covering in today’s post: which aircraft types fly in and out of London City Airport?

Why Is Landing At London City Airport Complicated?

Pilots landing at London City Airport (LCY) face two main challenges:

  • Dealing high obstacles on the approach path, that force the crew to a steep descent into the airport
  • Landing on a short runway compared to what is found in most other European airports

The airport is located just a few miles from downtown London with Canary Wharf on the approach path. This area has tall buildings that force incoming aircraft to have a steeper than usual glide slope.

The runway itself on the other hand is only 1,500 meters long. Just to put that into context, that’s not even half the length of the shortest runway at London Heathrow Airport.

Swiss Embraer E190 Landing at London City Airport. The Brazilian made plane is one of the aircraft types capable of operating in and out of the airport in downtown London.

What Aircraft Types Land at London City Airport?

As you might have guessed by now, only smaller planes are adequate to land at this airport. Particularly planes that have particularly good take off performances and don’t need much runway to get airborne.

Anything either equal or larger than an Airbus A319 will not be able to land here. Although nowadays there aren’t any A318s flying here, there used to be an all Business class British Airways flight to New York via Shannon operating from LCY airport. At the moment of writing this article the largest plane to operate flights to the tiny London Airport is the Airbus A220-100. However here are the commercial aircraft that are serving flights from and to the airport at the moment:

  • Airbus A220-100 (Operated by: Swiss)
  • Embraer E190 (Operated by: British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, LOT, German Airways for ITA Airways)
  • Embraer E190-E2 (Operated by: Helvetic Airways)
  • DHC Dash 8-400 (Operated by: Luxair)

As you can see these are all small sized planes with the A220-100 being the only capable of covering even medium haul, longer routes. There are however other planes less commonly used or out of service that are certified to operate flights to LCY airport, such as:

  • Avro RJ146
  • Airbus A318
  • Dornier 228
  • Dornier 328
  • Embraer ERJ-135
  • Embraer E170
  • Saab 2000
  • Saab 340
  • Fokker F50
  • Fokker F70
  • ATR 42
  • ATR 72
British Airways Embraer Landing at London City Airport located in Canary Wharf in proximity of the financial district of the English capital.

LCY Airport Information

Just to get some extra context about this very unique and special airport let’s cover some of the key measurements and information about the airport.

Runway Length1,508m
Runway Orientation09/27
Construction Year1987
2023 Passengers3,412,122

As you can see the airport is quite new, and has a very specific clientele that uses it day in and day out. Its features, mainly its runway make it a STOL airport. Therefore all the planes we talked about in this post have performance characteristics that allow them to perform both short take-offs and short landings.

The airport wrapped up 2023 with 3.4 million passengers transiting. That is still far from what it used to be in the pre-covid world. 2019, the last year prior to the pandemic, saw the central London airport welcome 5.1 million passengers. Progress is being made to recover the lost passengers by expanding routes.

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