What Makes Heathrow Tick At 70?

October 12, 2016 0Air Cargo

London Heathrow Airport has changed beyond recognition since being transferred to the Minister of Civil Aviation on 1st January 1946.  Back then it started out as merely a tented village where passengers reached the aircraft across duckboards.  The airport handled only 63 thousand passengers in its first year and was not called Heathrow Airport.  Simply then known as London Airport, things didn’t start to change until the late 1950’s when it was awarded the IATA code LHR.

There are many factors which make up London Heathrow.  Most people know Heathrow as the home of Concorde.  Did you know that an original Concorde is still housed at the airport?  Concorde 208 G-BOAB (“Alpha Bravo”) was used for commercial flights and was launched in 1976.  It made its final journey in August 2000 from New York to London Heathrow and is now sited at the end of runway 27L, so it can be viewed by the passengers of the airport.

As the world’s third busiest airport, running Heathrow is a 24/7 operation.  Flights do not operate 24 hours a day however.  Flights start arriving from 04:30 with departures at 06:00.  Flights then stop at 23:30 every day.  During the time the flights are stopped essential maintenance work is carried out on the runways and aircraft, engineering work is completed, cleaning takes place, systems are serviced and outlets restocked.  It costs over £975 million per annum to run Heathrow and back in 2013 cost £20 million alone to resurface the south runway.

Heathrow is the UK’s only Hub airport and Europe’s busiest, operating over 1,400 flights a day.  That’s nearly half a million each year or one every 45 seconds.  Terminal 5 is the largest free standing structure in the UK.  Inside, its security lanes aim to process 35 passengers per 15 minutes and throughout the summer the terminal is at its busiest, with more than 100,000 people per day using its facilities.

Everyone within the Heathrow community contributes to the safety and security of the airport.  London Ambulance Service has a team of first responders in all terminals.  They operate throughout the terminals on mountain bikes to get to the passengers quickly but safely.  In 2008 Heathrow Airport Watch was set up for Aviation Enthusiasts to report anything suspicious to the aviation police.  Aviation Enthusiasts are issued identity cards after background checks are completed which easily identifies them to airport officials.

Heathrow has undergone massive changes over the last decade.  Terminal 4 completed a major refurbishment after British Airways relocated to the newly opened Terminal 5.  The old Terminal 2 buildings were demolished and rebuilt, opening to the public in June 2014.  A new state of the art Air Traffic Control Tower was opened in 2007 at 285-foot-tall.  At the time this made it the UK’s tallest tower.  Housed within are the air traffic controllers to which Heathrow employs 65, trained by the college of Air Traffic Control.

Still in discussion and debate is whether Heathrow should expand further to gain a third runway and Terminal 6.  It does already have a “6th Terminal” however, The VIP Suite also known as The Royal Suite has two dedicated stands RS1 and RS2.  It is used for private aircraft by visiting heads of state, certain high ranking celebrities and The Royal Family.

With all this development Heathrow is well placed to transport over 73 million passengers worldwide and handles them by employing over 76 thousand people.  The demand for air travel continues to grow whether it is for the business or leisure sector.  By placing itself in a constant pattern of regeneration, Heathrow should continue to attract travellers from the world over and keep developing itself as a pioneer of airport innovation.