City of Derry Airport provisionally closed due to safety concerns

The BBC report that the City of Derry Airport will close from midnight tonight following a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority to “provisionally suspend its license following an inspection this week.” They’ve cited the “lack of an effective bird control plan, unsuitable temporary repairs to the area where planes park and poor runway drainage.” The airport, owned by Derry City Council, was last in the news in December 2006 when it lost a two-year battle against a Freedom of Information request.. And there’s an intriguing, if worrying, reference to “variations to safety regulations” in the Airport’s statement [see their news section – Ed].

Negotiations continued into the evening of Thursday 24th May 2007 between City of Derry Airport and the CAA with the final outcome being an immediate meeting in London on Friday to review the situation. The City of Derry Airport has operated under agreed variations with the CAA for the past number of years pending the commencement of the safety works.

And from the Airport’s own history

It wasn’t until 1978 that Derry City Council took the decision to purchase the airfield with a view to improving the transport infrastructure for the North West of Ireland. At the time this was a very forward-thinking decision especially since there were no airlines operating to the airfield and most of the airfield property had reverted to local landowners.

Over the intervening years the airport has slowly developed. Loganair introduced the first scheduled flight between Derry and Glasgow in 1979, a service, which still operates today. This route was the only route for ten years until British Airways introduced a daily Manchester service in 1989.

The Council gradually acquired most of the airfield property, however by the late 1980’s it became evident that the airport needed major investment if it was ever to achieve the potential envisaged in 1978. The Council applied for grant aid from the European Regional Development Fund and a major redevelopment programme was undertaken from 1989 to 1993. A total of £10.5 million was spent upgrading all of the facilities at the airport with 75% grant aid coming from Europe and 25% coming from Derry City Council. This programme upgraded runways, taxiways, access roads, navigation equipment and runway lighting, with the centerpiece being a new purpose-built terminal and fire station.

The programme was completed early in 1994 and the new terminal was officially opened in March of that year. The name of the airport was officially changed form Eglinton to the City of Derry Airport. At that time there were still only two scheduled routes carrying approximately 40,000 passenger per year. With the completion of the physical work the emphasis switched to route development and the search for new carriers.