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Congested Heathrow denies commemoration landing slot to British Eagle DC-6

Operators of a vintage Douglas DC-6 have been blocked from conducting a commemorative service to London Heathrow, owing to congestion concerns at the hub.

Sporting the colours of British Eagle International Airlines, the DC-6 had been due to commemorate the carrier's last flight - from Rotterdam to Heathrow - on 7 November, 40 years after the company went out of business.

Coventry-based Air Atlantique, the aircraft's operator, says that slots were initially assigned at Heathrow but were subsequently withdrawn. Slots at Heathrow are allocated by Airport Coordination Limited, although the airport is operated by BAA.

"Heathrow is very congested, operating at almost full capacity every day," says a spokesman for BAA. "Our priority is maintaining the operation and smooth running of the airport. We are therefore unable to accommodate this aircraft."

British Eagle DC-6 

But Air Atlantique, which describes the decision as a "bitter disappointment", believes concerns that the DC-6 would disrupt operations are unfounded.

"In the course of several commercial charters into Heathrow in recent years, and two previous commemorative flights - including one for BAA - our experience has been that the DC-6 does not cause any inconvenience," it says.

"We were able to demonstrate to the relevant air traffic control unit that the normal approach speeds and operating procedures of this public transport-certified airliner were in line with current standards and would require no special treatment."

Air Atlantique's DC-6 has been present at several events and recently participated in the ceremony to mark the closing of Berlin Tempelhof Airport on 30 October.