A very important step was made this evening as EI
-CBK operating the Aer Arann flight from Waterford became the first commercial traffic to land on the newly extended runway at London Southend Airport.
The airport has been closed for much of this week as the configuration of the landing aids and the repainting of the runway markings was completed. The extension is 300m in length plus an additional 70/45m turning circle at the end. The total length of the runway is now 1905m with TODA on both Runway 06 and 24 now 1799m.
The lack of investment in the runway at the airport is probably the greatest reason for its demise in the 1970s. In 1969, the airport was the 3rd busiest in the UK, with 700,000 passengers using the airport. However as the days of the Carvair came to an end and passenger jet aircraft were widely introduced, the runway became a sticking point, and the airport went into decline.
A runway extension was considered and objected in the 70s for the first time. Ambitions to expand the airport remained throughout the latter part of the 20th century. However the proximity of a church at the 06 end of the runway made things difficult. The airport even proposed demolishing, and later picking up and rolling the 11th century church away from the runway end.
It was believed for many years that the runway could not be extended with the church, just metres from the runway edge in place. However after being purchased by the Stobart Group in 2008, plans were drawn up with the CAA, and it was determined that the runway could be extended as it would allow the installation of an ILS on the 06 end of the runway, and that the church would be located abeam the touchdown point of the extended runway, rather than when aircraft were crossing the threshold.
Planning permission was granted, however the runway extension became a matter of local controversy, with a small yet very active group of NUMBYs attempted to block scheme through scaremongering and manipulating the judicial system. After the plans being called in by a government minister, and a public inquiry over the diversion of the road which was located directly before the 06 extension, the green light was given and the runway extension was constructed in Winter 2011/12.
The runway is still relatively short, however just long enough for easyJet to be opening a base at the airport, vastly increasing the prospects of my local airport.
I hope this post has been of interest to some, since the opening of the runway extension has been a pivotal moment for London Southend Airport, which will enable it to be reborn as a thriving regional airport.