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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday July 14 2014

Today, by some means or another that I forget (other than it was the internet) I learned that the new trains for Crossrail will supplied by Bombardier.  Oh yes, I learned it here.

And then, and again I forget how exactly, I learned about this bizarre vehicle, the Bombardier Embrio:

image

Oh yes, how I got to this was I googled for Bombardier pictures, and in among lots of airplanes and some trains, I saw this weird one wheeled thing, and investigated.

It looks like something Sylvester Stallone would ride in a movie.

It isn’t real.  It is only a “concept” vehicle, and concept vehicles never happen.  They just become part of the past history of the future, along with flying cars, robots to do your vacuuming and serve you tea, and elaborate space travel by the end of the last century.  Still, weird.

I think what made me dig this up was that I have a soft spot for Bombardier, having done a few days, over the past few years, of planespotting at London City Airport, my favourite airport in the world.  Lots of the planes that fly in and out of there are made by Bombardier.  The world’s famous planes are made by Boeing and Airbus.  But the quirky ones, the ones with propellers, the ones you don’t recognise, are made by companies like Bombardier.

I also like the way that railway carriages have changed during my lifetime.  They have got better and better, with their automatic doors and spacious interiors.

The bulk of the jets that fly out of City - aircraft in the range of 70-120 seats or so and smaller than are of interest to Boeing - are made by Embraer, which is a Brazilian company. Propeller driven aircraft that you see there tend to be made either by ATR (a joint venture between Aerospatiale of France and Alenia of Italy) or by Bombadier of Canada, as you say. The most important such aircraft is the Bombadier Dash 8, which used to be known as the DHC Dash 8, with DHC standing for “de Havilland Canada”. Bombadier’s aircraft division is the descendent of the Canadian subsidiaries of two venerable British aircraft manufacturers, the other being Vickers. A lot of the more useful assets of these companies ended up with the Canadian divisions when nationalisation of the British parent companies looked inevitable some decades ago.

Bombadier does make small jets and I believe that several airlines intend to fly the forthcoming Bombadier CS100 from City when it is available.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 16 July 2014

I like London City airport. I remember flying in there on a propeller (ok, turboprop) driven Dornier, looking around nervously for the Spitfires that had to be about to descend on us.

Posted by Alan Little on 17 July 2014

It’s easily the nicest London airport to go in and out of. If you are flying short haul and someone other than you is paying for it, it’s perfect. If you are paying yourself, the difference in fares is usually enough to make you fly from somewhere else.

(Of course, this is the point).

Posted by Michael Jennings on 17 July 2014

It used to be possible to get reasonably priced flights there at weekends: Are the airlines obliged to use the slots every day, even at a business airport on days when there are no business travellers?

Posted by Alan Little on 17 July 2014

The airlines aren’t obliged to, but they will presumably do so if they think they can make a profit. In a lot of cases they have bought small jets *specifically* for use at City Airport and don’t use them on other routes, so they might as well fly them and earn some revenue rather than leave them sitting on the ground somewhere.

Even on weekdays, flights out of City aren’t *that* expensive. Most flights are run by subsidiaries or affiliates of British Airways or Air France/KLM (with a small number of flights from other similar airlines such as Lufthansa/Swiss and Alitalia). They charge about the same as they do for flights from Heathrow or Gatwick to the same destinations. This is a big enough far difference to ensure that price conscious travellers go elsewhere. (I’ve only even used the airport twice, and only once when I was paying myself).

This is largely about capacity, though. City is a pleasant experience partly because of the lack of crowds, but the main constraint on the number of passengers is actually capacity. Larger aircraft cannot take-off from the short runway, and the number of slots is small due to the lack of a taxiway at the airport. (Planes have to taxi on the runway). It’s possible to make the same airport a pleasant experience for business travellers and still carry a large number of leisure travellers (and indeed to make the experience pleasant for them, too - see Singapore Changi)

As the business travellers aren’t there on the weekend, lowering the fares and flying whoever likes the idea of flying there at the weekend still makes sense, up to that still rather constrained capacity. I suspect that the people who fly from City on business quite like the idea of flying from there for leisure, too. In addition, they have frequent flier miles and still probably aren’t paying themselves, but providing leisure flights for them on the weekends probably makes them happy, which is important. The list of leisure destinations from City supports this - you have flights to Spanish beaches, but also to tony ski resorts and places in Tuscany.

Actually, the flight from City to Florence is a bit of a classic. Florence airport is another tiny city-centre airport which is very constrained with respect to aircraft type, just like City. Most people flying to Florence use Pisa airport. That flight gives you the same tiny airport experience at both ends.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 18 July 2014
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