Heathrow prepares for the A380

Posted: 25 November 2005 | Steve Elliott, Head of Projects, Heathrow Airport, BAA | No comments yet

Heathrow will welcome the A380 into service next year, and in this article its had of projects discusses the modifications carried out to make this possible.

Heathrow will welcome the A380 into service next year, and in this article its had of projects discusses the modifications carried out to make this possible.

Heathrow airport is the world’s busiest international airport with 67 million passengers travelling through its four terminals every year and approximately 90 airlines currently flying in and out. BAA is to spend more than £3 billion in upgrading the airport over the next ten years (excluding Terminal 5 spend) and it has invested £450 million to re-develop the airport’s Terminal 3, to prepare it for the arrival of the new Airbus A380 aircraft.

A new era of air travel will begin when the A380 flights commence. The new aircraft will be able to carry a lot more passengers on each flight and as a result airport teams have had to plan in advance to ensure that they have the necessary facilities and services to handle the larger number of passengers who will be travelling through their terminals.

Building new facilities at airports is challenging because the work has to be carried out in an operating airport environment, which never closes. The challenge for the construction teams further increases when working at Heathrow, next to the world’s busiest runways and getting ready to accommodate a brand new aircraft. Piers, taxiways, runways, roads, baggage belts, the baggage hall, check-in and car park facilities have all had to be carefully considered.

As Head of Projects at Heathrow I lead a team of 60, who in turn manage project teams to install new facilities and infrastructure and refurbish existing facilities across the four terminals. Fifteen people and their teams have been focusing solely on A380 related projects since early 2003. Two key projects are described in more detail: Pier 6 and the Terminal 3 Arrivals Extension.

The Pier 6 project

The biggest A380 project that BAA is undertaking at Heathrow is the re-development of Pier 6. The old Pier 6 has been demolished to provide space for the new structure, which has been built on a different alignment: parallel to the Southern runway. This will provide the necessary taxiway clearance for the A380. This £100 million re-development project will provide four larger aircraft stands and four new gate rooms, which will seat 2,200 passengers.

The new pier is a 280 metre long glass fronted building that as well as serving a functional need will also provide passengers with spectacular views of the airfield and aircraft as they walk to board their flight. The pier has been constructed on three levels to accommodate the A380’s increased height and width, allowing passengers to embark and disembark via twin jetties.

A new Pier for a new aircraft

Construction work started on Pier 6 in April 2004 and will complete in early 2006. The project has been meticulously planned and implemented to ensure minimal disruption to the airport. Establishing the site as a landside area has produced real benefits. The landside site has provided the project team with a longer working window at day and night and it has also given the team easier access to the site (an airside site requires a higher level of security for site workers and suppliers).

In accordance with international aviation security standards Pier 6 will segregate arriving and departing passengers and will provide a first class airline lounge, two small retail units, a coffee shop at departures level and a Bureau de Change at arrivals level. At apron level there will be 1600 square metres of office and storage space for the use of airlines and handling agents.

The first complete gate room was unveiled in September 2005 and the whole pier will go live from mid January 2006. Each gate room will serve an A380 and two of the gate rooms will have a multi-aircraft ramp system which will be capable of serving two smaller aircraft simultaneously. This will help to improve the overall operational efficiency at Terminal 3 and will deal with the greater number of passengers using the facility.

Extending Terminal 3’s arrivals area

An increased level of passengers in an airport terminal at any one time also means an increased number of bags. Work has been underway since early 2003 to ensure that the terminal and its teams can handle the future projected level of passengers and luggage.

A £35 million project commenced in spring 2004 to:

  • Extend the existing Arrivals hall to provide longer baggage reclaim carousels.
  • Introduce two longer baggage carousels in to the existing baggage hall.
  • Re-model and re-furbish Terminal 3’s Customs area.
  • Re-model the Arrivals concourse area.

A project team of approximately 170 is carefully implementing this complex, phased programme of works. For example, the new baggage belts cannot be installed in the current baggage hall until the new belts are operational in the Arrivals extension – as many belts as possible need to be in service throughout the project.

Likewise, a temporary tunnel had to be constructed through the Arrivals extension construction site to provide a protected route for baggage trolleys to be returned to Terminal 3’s existing baggage hall.

It is factors like this that make managing projects at Heathrow so challenging and so rewarding when the right solutions are found. The new baggage hall extension will open later this year, providing a more spacious area for passengers and all elements of this extension project will be completed for spring 2006.

In addition to longer baggage belts, the new extension will also provide new toilets, new airline desks, a bureau de change counter and other facilities. The re-modelled arrivals concourse area will provide an improved zone for passengers as they leave the terminal building and continue their journey to their final destination.

A380 preparatory works

The following work is also being implemented:

  • Runway resurfacing.
  • Widening and strengthening of the runway shoulders.
  • Upgrading runway lighting.
  • Moving the clearance line of the inner taxiway – due to the A380’s longer wingspan.
  • The construction of new taxiways.

Segregating passengers

The A380 projects haven’t been carried out in isolation. As the Pier 6 and Terminal 3 Arrivals Extension projects have progressed other teams have been working close by on two major projects in Terminal 3. When Pier 6 opens in 2006, Terminal 3 will have almost completed its segregation programme; to physically separate arriving and departing passengers, in line with international aviation security requirements.

With all these projects being undertaken at the same time we have all had to carefully plan a complex sequence of works.

Improved car parking

Adjacent to Terminal 3 a new car park structure is emerging. This new car park, known as Multi Storey Car Park West, will open in summer 2006 and will provide passengers with a greater number of parking spaces.

This car park is located in the heart of Heathrow’s central terminal area and is another example of how BAA has to build in a challenging environment. The site of the new car park is surrounded by some of Heathrow’s busiest roads, some of which had to be re-aligned before work could begin on site. The project team has had to re-route over 800 services (including airfield ground lighting cables, high voltage electricity cables and IT cables) running through the site of the new car park. The car park is also being built above the Heathrow Express (HEX) rail tunnels, which adds another layer of complexity.

The project team spent 14 months planning the project – on paper and PC – before going out on site. When the new car park opens in summer 2006 the existing car park 3 will be demolished, providing a new forecourt to Terminal 3.

Related organisations


Send this to a friend