Thursday, April 19, 2007

New ATC tower at Heathrow to begin service

LHR towerThe new air traffic control tower at London's Heathrow International Airport (LHR) will go into service this weekend. The switchover will take place on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 02:00 local time -- a time when the airport is at its quietest.

The new tower is 87 meters high, which is more than twice as high as the existing tower. The older tower has been in service since 1955.

The new landmark tower, operated by NATS, is seen as key to the successful introduction of Heathrow's Terminal 5 next year. According to NATS, the new tower will ensure that LHR's 60 air traffic controllers "remain at the geographic heart of the airfield with an unrivalled 360˚ view."
It also means re-orienting themselves to a different perspective of the airfield, and having time to reinforce their familiarity with the geography. This means that for the first few days, operations will be slowed slightly to maintain safety, and there may be some delays as a result.

Martyn Jeffery, General Manager NATS Heathrow, said: "We are reducing the number of landings while our controllers familiarise themselves with the new tower, so that they have less traffic to deal with than is normally the case.

"I'm confident they will quickly build familiarity. Nonetheless, at an airport used as intensively as Heathrow, this means it is possible there will be some delays to flights although we are working very closely with BAA, and with British Airways, BMI and other airlines, to make sure any delay is minimal."
The older tower is at the geographic center of LHR's current operations, but would be too far off-center to provide optimum service once Terminal 5 opens. The new terminal is scheduled to open in March of 2008.

An article about the new tower on aviation news website has two more photos, including an interior shot of the ATC cab.

[Photo Source]