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Heathrow circus as high-wire walkers replace lightbulbs

November 27, 2013 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59London’s Heathrow Airport has hired a team of specialist high-wire walkers, similar to circus tightrope artists, to change the lightbulbs in Terminal 5.

In what seems to be an extraordinary oversight, no way exists, apparently, to safely change 120,000 lightbulbs that were installed up to 40 metres above the ground when the roof was erected. The huge terminal was constructed at a cost equivalent to almost AUD 8 billion.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, not a single bulb has been replaced on the terminal’s immense single-span roof since it opened in 2008. In some areas, up to 60% of the bulbs have blown. 250x250

The main building in the Terminal 5 complex is the largest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom. Terminal 5 is currently used exclusively as one of the three global hubs of International Airlines Group, parent of British Airways and Iberia.

An email obtained by news website Exaro suggests that the lightbulb problem initially flummoxed Terminal 5’s owners. They found cherry-pickers and hydraulic boom lifts were either impractical or unsafe.

Then the solution rolled up – a team of specialist wire walkers.

The email, said to have been sent to staff by Vicki O’Brien, head of Heathrow customer service at British Airways, revealed that all the lightbulbs are to be changed in a project lasting four months.

O’Brien wrote: “As many of you will have seen recently, the departures concourse has been becoming darker than normal in the late afternoons/evenings, as well as in the early mornings.

“The reason for the poor light is that 60% of the downlighters have failed, and until recently Heathrow had no viable way to replace them.

“Various things have been investigated in the past five years, but for a number of reasons none of these were practical or safe.

“The good news is that Heathrow has now identified a safe and robust way to replace all the lightbulbs, and this is high-level rope work carried out by a specialist company.”

The airport’s operators plan to replace all the bulbs with LEDs that should last five years or more.

British Airways confirmed to the paper that it was working with the airport’s owners to improve the lighting “due to concerns over the brightness of the terminal in the winter months”.

BA could not confirm that the email by Vicki O’Brien was genuine, the Mail reported.

Written by : Peter Needham

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