Airbus A318 makes first test arrival and departure at London City Airport

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David Learmount / London

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Ian Billinghurst

Airbus A318 makes first ever approach to London City airport

Today for the first time an Airbus A318 has flown a test sortie into London’s downtown City Airport (LCY) to prove it can handle its steep approach, short runway and the limited manoeuvring and parking space. This A318 (F-WWIA) had its modified control software – designed to cope with steep approaches -certificated in March by the European Aviation Safety Agency, says Airbus, and the visit to LCY was for an airport compatibility test monitored by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

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Ian Billinghurst

The instrument landing system (ILS) approaches to LCY’s 1,199m (3,650ft) runway have a 5.5deg glideslope (compared with the normal 3deg) for noise abatement reasons, and this steeper slope would cause most jet aircraft to arrive over the runway too fast to land.

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Ian Billinghurst

For the test today, Airbus test pilot Capt Peter Chandler pressed a button in the cockpit overhead panel as he gave the approach briefing just before top of descent. This modifies the control laws of the aircraft’s fly-by-wire system, automatically providing extra drag by deploying two wing spoilers each side to 30deg as the crew select approach configuration with gear down. The pilots, flying airspeeds about 8kt above those for a normal approach, received a “standby, standby” call passing 120ft (36m) above runway level on final approach, and a “flare” call at 65ft. The flare manoeuvre automatically reduces the spoiler deployment until they activate fully on touchdown.

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Ian Billinghurst

Today Chandler carried out two touch-and-goes on LCY’s runway 28 – he says that because the runway is so short they were more like rejected landings with full power applied immediately upon touchdown – and a full-stop landing followed the third approach. Manoeuvring on the ground was no problem for the A318 despite the limited space, he says. The short take-off was not limiting today with about 10kt headwind, says Chandler, adding that in still air the aircraft would be slightly payload limited.

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Ian Billinghurst

All the jets that can currently operate into LCY were designed as regional jets or business jets, and airport managing director Richard Gooding says the A318’s arrival will double the range of destinations available non-stop from the airport. Spain and Eastern Europe will be within its operating range with 107 passengers on board, says Airbus.

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Ian Billinghurst

Airbus A318 departs London City for Toulouse

Airbus A318 Specification from Flight's Commercial Aircraft Directory.