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.

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  • PeaceandJustice

    I look forward to the airport re-opening again. It’s a good chance to rebrand the airport and avoid tourist confusion by re-opening as Londonderry Airport.

  • Winged one

    Truth is that the airport has been operating under a ‘temporary dispensation’ from the CAA for nearly a decade – they have obviously finally lost patience.
    The CAA regards it as ‘one of the most dangerous airports in the UK’ for take off and landing
    You have been warned.

  • Munster republic

    Under funding west of the bann?

  • Monster Republic

    ‘Under funding west of the bann’
    No. Truck loads of money have been thrown at this airport but the bottom line is that there isnt a big enough population to make it work!
    They would have been far better using all the money building a dual carraige way from Derry to the M2.
    But Hume et al insisted. When no one could get the project to stack up in order to qualify for the EU Structural Funds Mo Mowlam just used Peace money (which had much less string attached) as a slush fund.
    Still does make it anything other than a nonsense.

  • The Third Policeman

    Ah come on now, its hardly any more dangerous than that field outside of Crossmaglen the british army landed their whirly bird in there a while back. No talk of suspending licenses there.

  • GavBelfast

    If this is long-term, could there be an amnesty for the houses, several of them excellent, old properties, which are the subject of ridiculous demolition orders from the Council, reportedly at the whim of Ryanair?

    When can we look forward to the publication of the cosy DCC/Ryanair deal?

  • Yer Woman

    It takes all of one hour to get from Derry to Aldergrove airport. Can you imagine how long it would take if a proper dual carraige way was built between Derry and Belfast?

  • cynic

    Yer Woman – its about 45 miles so I imagine about 45 minutes assuming you kept to the speed limit.

    Lets spend squillions of pounds to save 10 minutes on the trip? Afraid that even the Assembly wont buy that one.

  • [1] The north-west needs and deserves an airport. That is not simply a passenger matter; freight is also a consideration. It’s either Eglinton or give St Angelo another 500 metres of runway (which would make sense for tourism, anyway).

    [2] Eglinton is potentially a fine site.

    [3] There clearly is a customer base: on the occasions I have used the route, it has been heavily patronised, including the hordes from Donegal. Demand can only grow.

    [4] Surely Aldergrove would be better as the “international” airport it claims to be (but has not yet fulfilled). Eglinton is more a regional airport.

    [5] If we are going to argue “45 minutes” of transfer time as a factor, can we not well be rid of “George Best”? If the road network needs improving, that is an issue that should and must be viewed separately. Anyway, there is a rail link, well worthy of upgrading, that links Eglinton, Aldergrove and Belfast centre.

    [6] Notice how limited the CAA’s objections are: runway drainage, the parking apron, and “bird plan”.

    [7] Isn’t it amazing that already a main quibble is the name of the facility? Can anything say more about a particular blinkered mentality?

  • darth rumsfeld

    do the beleaguered rate payers of Londonderry get a refund on the squillions squandered and then concealed up to and including a hearing before the information commissioner?

  • Whatever Next

    Let’s start with surcharging the bigots on the council for the signs they had changed so that they could rename Eglinton airport ‘City of Derry’, so as to sate [sic] some sectarian bloodlust weirdly unaffected by boring constraints like, oh, geography.

  • It’s clear where the antis are coming from, and going:
    “Truck loads of money have been thrown at this airport” [Monster Republic @ 11:44 PM];
    “the squillions squandered” [darth rumsfeld @ 09:17 AM].

    Now compare that with the reality:

    [1] “The European Commission has authorised, under EC state aid guidelines, a plan to fund a number of essential infrastructure improvements at the City of Derry Airport. The plan involves joint financing of the infrastructure by the UK and Irish governments together with Derry City Council, the airport’s owner.

    “The proposed financing was considered compatible with the European common market as it satisfies the criteria laid down in state aid guidelines; it constitutes essential infrastructure designed to achieve a clearly defined objective of general interest without leading to undue distortion of the market.

    “The measure in question concerns the intention of the United Kingdom and Irish governments to provide over £10.4 million (EUR 15.2 million) of financial assistance to Derry City Council to meet 75% of the cost of two capital development projects at the airport. Each government will pay 37.5%, approximately £5.2 million (EUR 7.6 million) of the expenditure, while Derry City Council will contribute the remaining 25%, approximately £3.48 million (EUR 5 million).” [http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/about_us/office_in_northern_ireland/press_releases/0609_en.htm]

    [2] Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, said: “City of Derry Airport serves the entire North West region. Recognising its strategic importance, the Government has decided to increase its funding to allow the completion of development works at the Airport.”

    “The Government will contribute a total of €10.87 million to works at the Airport. The Government’s contribution is matched by the British Government under the co-funding arrangements agreed by the two Governments in March 2005.” [http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=27359]

    Contributions to this thread seem wilfully to be confusing four issues:

    [1] The financing of desirable and necessary upgrades to the airport (a process which is open and transparent, necessarily so because of the tripartite involvement of two Governments and the EC); and

    [2] The smaller issue of the subsidy to Ryanair:
    “The agreement struck in 1999 guaranteed Ryanair £250,000 (€380,000) a year from a consortium of four state-funded authorities on both sides of the Irish border to promote its Derry to London route. A range of other taxpayer-subsidised benefits included free landing, navigation, air control, security, baggage and passenger charges, were also given.” [http://www.uk-airport-news.info/derry-airport-news-200107.htm]

    [3] The deficit on operating the airport:
    “Its operating costs are around £3.5m a year, but revenue is about £2m. The losses are met by the council.” [http://www.uk-airport-news.info/derry-airport-news-131206.htm]
    To have some sense of proportion, compare this with:
    * the Derry city budget as a whole [http://www.derrycity.gov.uk/rates/improvements.htm];
    and
    * the announcement from Conor Murphy of £12M extra for roads in Derry City this year [http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news-rd-240507-roads-service-to].

    [4] The SEA [i.e. Eamonn McCann] potesting the Donnybrewer Road houses, and attempting to elevate it into an extension of the Land War.

    Is there any hope that we can discard prejudices and stick to realities here?

  • Briso

    >Is there any hope that we can discard prejudices and stick to realities here?

    No chance. There is no stronger prejudice on slugger than that against Derry.

  • feismother

    < >

    I wonder what route you take.

    It’s an hour from Derry to Aldergrove on a very good day. Try doing it at a busy time.

    Not everyone coming and going to City of Derry airport is travelling to Derry and its environs any more than those into Aldergrove are going no further than Antrim or Belfast.

  • Ziznivy

    Delighted by this. Everything that makes the North West even less attractie is alright by me. West of the Bann is a worthless wasteland inhabited only by woodkerne.

  • Re: Ziznivy @ 11:21 AM

    You really couldn’t make it up, could you?

    Incidentally, the abuse-term “woodkerne” referred originally to “the the Border Reivers in the Debatable Land between Scotland and England” (i.e. the Scots progenitors of immigrants into Ulster in the early 17th century).

    One of the origins of the expression seems to be in John Derrick’s Image of Irelande of 1581. This features the English, having brought civilisation to the benighted heathens, returning carrying severed Irish heads and leading a captive by a halter.

    One needs to be careful in one’s use of terms.

  • There is also the PSO subsidy paid on the Dublin-Derry route let’s not forget.

  • The Public Service Obligation subsidy on flights between Dublin and ‘Derry amounted to €2.3M in 2003-4 (the latest year for which I have figures). However, that, as I understand, goes to the carrier (BA in the main), not to the airport, and so I had discounted it for the purpose of this argument.

  • interested

    What in the name of all that is holy is a District Council doing running an airport anyway?

    Do the committee meeting agendas have :
    1) Bin emptying
    2) Playgrounds
    3) Leisure Centres
    4) The Airport

    ?????

    Close the thing, and close it now……

  • interested @ 03:22 PM:
    “What … is a District Council doing running an airport anyway?”

    [1] Doing it pretty well;
    [2] Behaving in the manner of a proud and proper city;
    [3] Establishing and fostering a public facility when nobody else would;
    [4] Looking after the best interests of its citizens;
    etc., etc.

    We might also consider:
    Private enterprise has not been much in evidence in the Province in recent decades.
    The notion that the whole of Ulster (yes, Ulster) can be properly served, now and for the future, through Aldergrove and Dublin seems fallacious. That isn’t in the local, provincial, national or European interest.
    Demand is increasing at at astounding rate, passenger traffic at regional airports doubles every 15 years (at Eglinton that has happened, albeit from a low base-line, in just two years).

    There are many, and good arguments against airport expansion: they receive endless publicity. People, however far they claim to be convinced by those arguments and publicity, still want to fly. The Green nay-saying argument seems to be that someone, somewhere must stop them, deny them their wish, inconvenience them, force them to conform, deny them that opportunity.

    None of this seems relevant to a small and passing problem at Eglinton.

    Prediction: not many years down the road the attitude of “Close the thing, and close it now” will seem Luddite. It is the view that closed the railways, and filled in the canals. Funny how it rarely extends to confiscating the second family car.

  • Malcolm – while the airport doesn’t receive the money directly, it does receive the benefit.

  • Mark Dowling @ 01:10 PM

    Thanks for the input: I accept your point. Quite honestly, I cannot quantify that benefit.

    The best I can do is note that Eglinton handled some 15,000 aircraft movements in 2005 (for comparison: Aldergrove was 40,000). There are (correct me if I’m adrift here) some 28 flights between LDY and DUB each week: say 1400-1550 a year. So this accounts for about 10% of the aircraft movements at Eglinton, and about the same percentage (29,500 in 2003, my latest figures) of the passengers.

    Your comment did make me realise that, although the aircraft and staff on this service are in BA livery, and the ticketing is through the BA codes, in fact the service is run by Loganair, “Scotland’s Airline”.

    One learns something new every day:
    It keeps the Alzheimer’s at bay.

    Might one also wonder what the “benefit” from those famous “rendition” flights could be?

  • John Hubbard

    If the nitwits (that we continue to vote for in NI) would go to some medium sized coastal city like The Hague or Oslo, they just might learn something about how to organise a transport system. The primary objective should be an integrated system. They could start by making a short spur to Aldergrove from the main railway line linking Belfast and L’Derry. The second would be a short spur to Eglinton. A half-hourly service in either direction would do away with the need for an airport in L’Derry. It would be a ‘green’ solution. This alone should please some of the Council members. Not being orange it would horrify the others no doubt.

  • @John Hubbard – make the Derry-Belfast railway viable? As if Translink would ever let that happen!

    As for a northwest airport – there’s always Carrickfin I suppose. 🙂

  • ingram

    Hi,

    Quote As for a northwest airport – there’s always Carrickfin I suppose. unquote

    Two new bus sheds stuck together in Gay Byrnes back garden.

    Keep Derry open.

  • For crying out loud!

    Den Haag (seat of government, etc: 600,000 population) and Oslo (capital city: 550,000 population) are not in the same league as ‘Derry (population some 90,000, though with a big hinterland).

    Nor is the issue here the railway line. On that issue I am with John Hubbard @ 08:51 PM and anybody else: it must be preserved and upgraded. NI is one of the few geographic entities where three airports are potentially inter-connected by rail. And that’s apart from all the other advantages of rail (which are not applicable to this thread. However, if only the link to Enniskillen and the Lakeland could be redeemed!)

    For the record, Carrickfinn has a narrow 1500m runway, used only by Aer Arann: Eglinton is 1850m. Eglinton is not a perfect location (especially in a northerly gale), but can handle modern passenger jets and freight.

    Can we not agree that the potential of an airport for the north-west must be preserved and enhanced? That the previous hostile contributions (Lagansiders in the main) to this thread indicate a massive prejudice against it? That, despite hostility from Belfast and London, over thirty years the ‘Derry Council (with the support of all parties) have done a decent job?

    And, yes to all three of the previous contributors, a balanced transport policy is an ideal. And, please God!, is more likely with the Assembly than without.

    I never thought that I’d end up PRing any cause!

  • confused

    Who is responsible for this mess?
    If the City Council have shown over the years to be incompetent then the government should transfer powers to a Commission in the hope of an improvement and in the meantime one or two sackings would be in order.

  • confused @ 10:10 PM”

    [1] Define precisely “this mess”.

    [2] What’s wrong with devolution?

    [3] Which “government” appoints what “Commission” (interesting and anti-democratic use of differential capitalisation there!)?

    [4] What “improvement” is part of said “Commission”‘s involvement?

    [5] As for “sackings”, who did what wrongly?

  • confused

    The mess——–An airport which is closed for safety reasons

    Nothing wrong with devolution

    government that which is sovereign and accepts responsibility

    Improvement can be seen when the airport is open and operating within acceptable safety parameters

    Sackings refer to those who brought about this mess in the first place

  • confused @ 10:38 PM

    Ah, just mouthing off.

    [1] Please review the reasons for the closure. They were drainage from the runway, temporary repairs to the hard-standing, and scaring off birds. The term “acceptable safety parameters” was not used, and implies something much more serious.

    [2] Doubtless, with unlimited funding, all these problems could have been avoided. Are those who denied the finance the ones who “brought about this mess in the first place”?

    Bottom line: I totally approve of having a regulator, independent of g/Government, which can devise and enforce regulations. I also wish to see those regulations enforced, not quibbled over for factional, party, commercial or regional advantage.

    [3] As for “government that which is sovereign and accepts responsibility”, when in British history (apart from Alfred’s culinary disaster, when he was not sovereign over even a marsh) did that whole-heartedly last happen?

  • Pete Baker

    Malcolm

    You appear to have missed the key references, pointed to in the update

    In particular, in relation to the closure, the blame and the funding is the charge of a “systematic failure of safety management”

    That, together with the allowed operation “under agreed variations [to safety regulations] with the CAA” would seem to be the reason why the CAA eventually lost patience with the City Of Derry Airport.

  • confused

    malcom

    The last point you make suggests a political viewpoint which you hold and is not relevant to this discussion and also displays an ignorance of history.

  • confused @ 11:30 PM

    For crying out loud! Expliquez! S’il vous plait!

    The entirety of my contribution to this thread (please, please review it) has been aimed at achieving a fact-based, objective argument on one assumption: that Aldergrove may be the regional hub, but it cannot in the middle- and long-term provide the facilities needed for the whole Province.

    So, I beg you to state precisely:
    [1] wherein I have been irrelevant to the discussion; and
    [2] (more personally a worry) how I may improve my knowledge of history.

  • John Hubbard

    The way things are going means fewer airports, not more! Airlines of the future will serve only those places which cannot be served by rail. If people in 2027 want to travel from L’Derry (or Donegal) to Dublin or Cork they will do so in the train. If they want to drive, they will pay exorbitant tolls and taxes for the privilege. The same applies to freight. Flying to mainland UK will be a very expensive luxury – most people will go by fast ferry and then take a fast train to their destination. Monies spent in upgrading tiny regional airports to CAA standards would be better spent upgrading the rail network. The sooner we start the better.

  • John Hubbard

    [i]For crying out loud[/i. [i]NI is one of the few geographic entities where three airports are potentially inter-connected by rail[/i].

    For crying out loud! Have you ever visited the Netherlands? All the main airports are linked directly with the rail network. That means you can walk from the plane to the train with luggage. There are trains to everywhere in the country every 30 minutes. Timetables are almost unnecessary. We could do something similar in Ireland which links the main cities with Belfast, Dublin, Cork, maybe Galway. But it is not so sexy as a little airport at Eglinton which the 90,000 inhabitants of Foyleside can call its own. Of course it will be paid for, mainly, by Thames-siders or even Lagan-siders. How easy it is to spend other people’s money!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Malcolm:

    [3] There clearly is a customer base: on the occasions I have used the route, it has been heavily patronised, including the hordes from Donegal. Demand can only grow.

    If there’s a clear customer base then let’s privatize it and stop propping it up with public money. Agreed ?

    [4] Surely Aldergrove would be better as the “international” airport it claims to be (but has not yet fulfilled). Eglinton is more a regional airport.

    What do you mean, “not yet fulfilled” ? A significant proportion of flights out of Aldergrove are outside of the UK.

    [5] If we are going to argue “45 minutes” of transfer time as a factor, can we not well be rid of “George Best”?

    Belfast City airport is privately run and is extremely popular. This has a lot to do with the fact that there is a population and commercial base to support it. Clearly you can’t build airports near every little conurbation there is.

    Anyway, there is a rail link, well worthy of upgrading, that links Eglinton, Aldergrove and Belfast centre.

    John Hubbard also made a related comment.

    The Derry-Belfast railway line should be upgraded, but also properly run. Building or upgrading stations and track is all very well, but Translink will require a subsidy to operate loss-making services on it. That’s the part of the plan that our politicians aren’t prepared to confront.

  • lib2016

    If Belfast warrants an airport even with good rail and bus links to Dublin then surely so does Derry, just as Cork and Farranfore can happily coexist.

    Similarly rail links between Dublin and Limerick are unrecognisable from only a few years ago yet there is no chance of Shannon disappearing

    Let’s not discriminate against the provincial airports, not in Derry nor in Belfast nor elsewhere. There’s far too much centralisation as it is.

  • Juno

    I propose another new name for City of Derry / Eglinton Airport that takes us away from the whole Londonderry Derry debate. What about Mickey Mouse Airport?

    What the events of the weekend have proved is that we don’t need an airport in the North West, Gay Byrne’s bike shed notwithstanding. I was a supporter of the airport (being a rate payer and all) I bought all the stuff about inward investment west of the Bann etc. Where is it and how does the airport support it?