Pods are go! Heathrow celebrates National Women in Engineering Day


By Heathrow

Published 23rd June 2016

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Today, Heathrow is proud to celebrate and promote National Women in Engineering Day. Amongst the 76,000 people that work at Heathrow are thousands of women who help keep the airport running in a ever increasing variety of roles. To help highlight this cause, we took some some time out with Kenna Hamilton, an engineer working on the world renowned and awarded Heathrow Pods.

It’s a busy start to the day for Kenna. Along with her 7 engineering colleagues based close to Terminal 5, she helps maintain and repair the fleet of 21 Pod cars that offer passengers a seamless and quick 5 minute trip between parking and the terminal building.

“Its very hands on and a great buzz to fix things,” Kenna explains while applying new parts to a Pod on its routine check up.

“Working at a airport where people are coming and going, you feel like your helping them get away, being part of something bigger. Nothing stays the same here”

Equal part of the team…

Having moved down to London from Glasgow to start her Heathrow career initially as an apprentice, Kenna has firmly settled into her role and simply considers herself as an equal part of the team.

Highlighting the ever increasing number of women in engineering roles at Heathrow, Kenna was eager to explain how another female colleague was being actively re-trained to join her working on the Pods and believes the sky is the limit.

“The career paths at Heathrow are good, I would like to be working in APOC (Airport Operations Centre) as a Air Side Engineer someday.”

Kenna is part of an increasing number of women working in various engineering departments across Heathrow. We are proud to encourage a diverse workforce and with that help celebrate National Women in Engineering Day.

Take a further look into how Heathrow supports local and national jobs via the Heathrow Academy, here.

In our latest biodiversity blog with Adam Cheeseman we’ve taken a look some new species, a profile of the Orchard Farm site in Colne Valley, and the Cetti’s Warbler bird – which only arrived in Britain in 1973!

With the arrival of spring in April and May, my job gets a whole lot busier as wildlife of all shapes and sizes really comes to life with the warmer weather. We carry our ecological surveys regularly – but with animals and plants beginning their main periods of reproduction there’s all of a sudden a lot more to count!

So from now until Autumn much of my time will be spent carrying out regular counts of birds, butterflies, moths, amphibians (as well as making casual observations of creatures I stumble across) using a range of survey methods from simple head counts to putting out humane traps and examining the contents the next day, before releasing the animals back in to their habitat.

As the season progresses even more species, and habitats too, will become evident and need surveying, such as bats and dragonflies.

91 new species found this year to date…

New species found are a fairly regular occurrence. These are mostly invertebrates as many families have not been recorded previously due to being quite difficult to get to grips with their identification and generally being quite small and hard to come across in the first place. So far this year 91 new species have been found, 49 of which have been mostly various types of fly, wasp or bee.

The Rose Chafer is the 454th species of beetle found around Heathrow managed biodiversity areas.

Other groups that have bumped up the species total this year are fungi, lichens and mosses, which included Dead Moll’s Fingers – the airport’s 2,500th species. Lichens are quite easily overlooked, but if you look at any tree, wall, wooden fence, kerbstone, building and even some vehicles, you will find that these sometimes colourful symbiotic life-forms between a fungal and an algal partner are all around us.

Perhaps the most spectacular looking addition to the airport’s fauna this year though has to be the Rose Chafer. A metallic emerald green jewel of a beetle about the size of a broad bean that was found at Camp 4 recently.

Last autumn’s planting of native Wild Daffodil and Bluebell bulbs, by Heathrow colleague volunteers in the coppiced woodland area at the Causeway Nature Reserve, proved quite successful with many delicate nodding yellow trumpets and slightly drooping blue flowers colouring the woodland floor before the canopy closed over and the other vegetation grew taller.

Profile: Orchard Farm Biodiversity Site

Orchard Farm is a small parcel of land, some 2 hectares in size, which sits within the greater Colne Valley site owned by Heathrow Airport Limeted. The site gets its name from a small, turn of the century orchard and cottage that existed approximately in the locality. Comprised principally of a mixture of grassland habitat types bordered by the River Colne to the East and a small stream to the South, the terrestrial habitats were moved wholesale to this location from their original site where Terminal 5 now stands.

The main reason for the translocation was the existence on site of the only known Greater London wild population of Water Avens, a plant that loves damp grasslands and wet meadows. A decade on and we are encouraging the plant to increase and spread with strong results. Also present is the regionally uncommon Pepper Saxifrage (a plant that’s actually part of the carrot family).

Wet grassland habitats in the area are sustained by seasonal inundation from the Colne River and the stream in winter, while an autumnal conservation cut and collection in the area prevents it from being taken over by scrub.

The invasive Himalayan Balsam plant is present, but this is hand-pulled to prevent its spread from along the river corridor. The mix of dry and wet grassland habitats provides for a diverse mix of flora in the sward. In turn this sustains a rich invertebrate fauna that has been recorded here.

We have had specific beetle and spider surveys carried out by local experts in these species and several very rare animals have been found including some previously unrecorded in Greater London and some that are Red Data Book (a publication including information on some of the rarest flora and fauna) listed.

Not surprisingly, bird life is pretty sparse here, but recently a pair of Cetti’s Warblers have bred along the margins of the River Colne. This little bird with a huge voice only started breeding in Britain for the first time in in 1973 and has slowly worked its way inland over the last 40 years.

Other species that can be found here are Grass Snakes, the iridescent Banded Demoiselle dragonfly and the Small Heath butterfly. Pipistrelle bats can sometimes be seen hunting over the area at dusk.

Orchard Farm has no conservation designations, but does form part of the Colne Valley Regional Park. It is also one of our Biodiversity Benchmark Award winning sites and can be viewed from the permissive bridleway that runs through the Colne Valley.


Heathrow has added to it’s incredible awards collection this week by winning the Best Airport in Europe over 25 million passengers at the annual Airport Council International (ACI) Europe Awards in Athens.

During a successful and impressive Gala Dinner hosted by Athens International Airport, Britain’s hub airport picked up the highly coveted prize beating the likes of Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt.

This year’s judging panel was drawn from a well-respected group of independent experts including EUROCONTROL, the European Commission, European Civil Aviation Conference and FlightGlobal. ACI Europe counts over 500 airports in 45 European countries and this year’s competition saw a high level of entries in each main category.

Heathrow’s Lucy Craven receiving the ACI Best Airport in Europe (above 25m passengers) award from Filip Cornelis.

The Awards cover four traffic categories of airport and aims to recognise achievement in core activities such as customer service, facilities, retail, security, community relations and environmental awareness.

Heathrow got considerable praise by judges when the airport was assessed on it’s effective operation enhancements, engagement with the local community and partnership with Air Traffic Control, airlines and charitable causes.

The event, held at the Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso in the Greek capital was attended by more than 350 industry representatives, including CEOs from major airports, airlines, air traffic management, national governments and European Union institutions.

Our transformation to improve the customer experience continues with ambitious plans for the future. Click here to learn of our hat-trick Skytrax success back in March!

Virgin Atlantic’s introduction of new Boeing Dreamliners has headlined the latest Fly Quiet League table which shows aircraft at Heathrow are getting quieter.

  • Virgin Atlantic up five places, having phased out older aircraft

  • Heathrow on track to become first large European airport free of oldest and noisiest aircraft

Virgin Atlantic’s replacement of its old 747-400’s with top of the range Dreamliners have improved the airline’s noise record over January to March of this year, the latest Fly Quiet League table shows. Air Canada, Air India, British Airways and Qatar have also significantly increased their use of 787 Dreamliners on their Heathrow routes this past year.

This has contributed to an overall 6% improvement in the total league table score tracking the use of quieter aircraft at Heathrow, the “chapter number” scores.

Early phase out of the noisiest planes is a key part of Heathrow’s Noise Blueprint. Heathrow is on track to become the first large European airport to be completely free of “Chapter 3” aircraft the oldest and noisiest classification, due in part to the heavy fees airlines pay to land these planes at Heathrow.

On average, airlines pay ten times more to fly Chapter 3 planes to Heathrow than they pay for the quietest aircraft, like Dreamliners.

Track keeping improves, with Air France and Aegean the big movers

The last three months have also shown some improvement in airlines adhering to the noise preferential routes in the skies around Heathrow as set by Government – or what is known as “track keeping”. Air France and Aegean moved up 7 places because of their track keeping while SN Brussels’s track keeping has improved its score from “amber” ratings to “green.”

Matt Gorman, Heathrow Director of Sustainability and Environment said, “It’s encouraging to see the positive results of our engagement with airlines in these latest Fly Quiet results. Replacing aircraft with newer, quieter types is one of the best ways to reduce noise and that is why the progress shown in the latest league standings is so important.”

Finnair A350. The A350 is one of the quietest and cleanest aircraft ever made.

“The results today are part of a wider trend seen at Heathrow, as airlines continue to use their newest planes not only because of our fees and their responsibilities to our local neighbours, but also because our routes are so sought after and they want to offer passengers the best, and quietest aircraft experience available.”

Meigan Terry, Senior Vice President, External Affairs at Virgin Atlantic commented, “We’re delighted to see our huge investment in quieter and more fuel efficient aircraft paying off for the local communities around Heathrow, as well as for our customers.”

“Our thirteenth 787-9 aircraft entered service at the airport just last week. We expect to have seventeen of these aircraft operating by 2018, creating one of the youngest and quietest long-haul fleets in the world.”

Heathrow has some of the world’s toughest rules and regulations on noise which has played a major role in driving developments in quieter aircraft technology. Limits and restrictions in force at Heathrow, and in particular those that apply to flights at night, promote the use of ‘best in class’ aircraft.

These incentives have contributed to more of the quietest planes being used at Heathrow – on average the aircraft that airlines use are 15 per cent quieter than the total global fleets of those airlines.


For the second year in a row, over 250 colleagues from across Team Heathrow took off down the runway in our Midnight Marathon event.

The more than 250 colleagues that ran in this year’s challenge were from organisations right across the airport including Mace, Atkins, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific took up this year’s challenge.

Of course many of our own Heathrow heroes (Heathrow Airport Limited employees) turned out too including colleagues from Security, Development, Legal and Business Assurance, and our Finance department who were even joined by Credit Suisse, one of our investors.

It was a terrific test of endurance with the added ingredient of a fun run in the mix, albeit a slightly surreal one as our competitors raced along our northern runway in the dark! And with any competitive race, there could only be one winner.

So a huge well done to fabulous Fred Tasker from Baggage Operations – our fastest runner for the second year in a row.

Over £40,000 raised for charity

With donations still flooding in, we’ve already matched and exceeded last year’s fantastic £40,000 raised for charity. Thank you to everyone for your continuing generosity to this year’s fab four charities of choice: Oxfam, Help for Heroes, Harlington Hospice and the Heathrow Community Fund (find our more about our charities below).

Well done to all our runners, volunteers and everyone who went out of their way to make this another memorable midnight marathon.

How the event worked

The event consisted of 12-person relay teams as well as a separate fun runners section. Each relay member was required to complete a 2.2 mile stretch of the northern runway within a 16 minute maximum time limit, before handing over to the next team member.

Fun runners were allowed to run as many lengths as they could within the time limit.

Our charities

  • Oxfam – 2016 is the last year of our partnership with Oxfam and we want to hit £1m by the end of it. Since joining forces in 2013 we’ve helped fund Oxfam projects such as: providing safe clean drinking water, setting up people with their own businesses, campaigning for women’s rights, helping equip schools and train teachers, help establish health care centres providing free health care for those in need. Let’s ensure we reach our target with the help of the Midnight Marathon.
  • Help for Heroes – Many Heathrow employees have close links with the armed forces and Border Force and the Met Police partner them. Their funds provide better support for British servicemen and women through projects including Personnel Recovery Centres, helping to launch injured soldiers back into the next phase of their lives.
  • Harlington Hospice – Harlington Hospice provides support to people at the ends of their lives and their families throughout the Borough of Hillingdon. The hospice provides a much needed service to many families in the local community to Heathrow, making it a charity we are very proud to support.
  • Heathrow Community Fund – Heathrow has been giving funding to its local community groups for 20 years via the Community Fund. The Fund’s programmes make a huge impact locally.


Heathrow has today unveiled a new video animation that shows the world beneath Terminal 5 and Terminal 6 as it could look with expansion and rail upgrades. The airport is set to be connected by 5 different rail services by 2032, creating a seamlessly integrated transport hub.

Heathrow is already the most connected airport by public transport in the UK  – featuring the TfL Piccadilly Line, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect rail services, and the UK’s largest bus/coach interchange.

A number of planned and proposed rail projects are set to boost this even further in upcoming years – starting with a Crossrail connection (now known as The Elizabeth Line) in 2019.

Western Rail Access…

The proposed project will tunnel a link of 3.8km from a junction on the Great Western Main Line east of Langley, near Slough and will service four trains per hour between Reading and Heathrow.

This new Western Rail Link has strong support across a broad area of the UK for the benefits it will bring which include:

  • Lowering CO2 emissions to the equivalent of 30 million passenger road miles a year;

  • Easing congestion on roads by taking up to one million cars off the road each year;

  • Create direct rail connectivity to Heathrow from areas such as Slough and Reading;

  • Reduce rail journey times to Heathrow from areas as far west as Swansea, Wales.

The project is also set to create up to 42,000 new jobs and £800 million of economic benefit across the Thames Valley and surrounding areas. Find out more, here.

Southern Rail Access…

While a final route for Southern Rail Access, including to Heathrow, hasn’t been decided upon, Network Rail has recently confirmed there is a strong case for the project.

A route connecting Heathrow to south London and Surrey has the potential to connect 4.8 million passengers to Heathrow.

Heathrow’s Terminal 5 already has a safeguarded railway box for this future connection.

Find out more, here.

Want to know how new rail connections could improve your journey time to Heathrow?



Heathrow is proud to invest millions of pounds introducing the latest technology to improve the passenger experience and reduce our environmental footprint. As we celebrate innovation at this year’s International Festival of Business, we look at some world leading initiatives that we have introduced at Britain’s hub airport.

Time Based Separation (NATS)

Managing the world’s busiest airspace safely and efficiently is not an easy task. Heathrow has been working with NATS (National Air Traffic Services) and Lockheed-Martin to implement a world first of Time Based Separation with the aim of significantly reducing airborne holding delays.

The system works by analysing live wind direction and speed as to automatically adjust separation between aircraft. After nearly five years of study monitoring 150,000 flights, Time Based Separation has full regulatory approval will now replace the existing distance based wake separation standards at Heathrow. Read more…

Heathrow Pods

ULTra (Urban Light Transit) is a personal rapid transit PODCAR system currently in operation at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Initially developed by British engineering company ULTra, these zero-emission battery operated pods have carried more than 1.5 million passengers and eliminated the need for 700,000 bus journeys since going into operation in 2010.

The electric powered vehicles have four seats, can carry a 500kg payload, and are designed to travel at 25 mph. They now successfully operate 22 hours a day and demonstrate 99% reliability with passengers waiting on average of just 10 seconds for a pod. Read more and see a hyperlapse video of a POD journey, here.

Pre-Conditioned Air (PCA) Trumpet

Every day hundreds of aircraft are parked at Heathrow that, just like when in the skies, need fresh air constantly provided. Wary of reducing costs and emissions, the use of engines is not an ideal power source. The concept of the PCA trumpet came about in 2012 when Heathrow teamed up with British Airways to improve the flow and quality of air provided to stationary aircraft.

Using a passenger trolley and spare hose, the first trial of an improved “trumpet” was successfully tested over a few months. The overall performance was a success with the new system retaining 29% more pressure and delivered 8% more airflow. It has been such a revolution for the industry that now a handful of manufacturers have developed their own versions. It continues to be rolled out across Heathrow further enhancing our efficiency and performance targets.

Heathrow Electric

850 vehicles in the air side fleet at Heathrow are electric, the largest such in Europe. As well as electric tugs that move baggage around the airfield, we use electric cars and vans to transport the thousands of people that work at the airport around safely and quickly.

Encouraging low emissions vehicles at Heathrow can also help our operators to reduce their fuel and maintenance costs. Our Clean Vehicles Partnership supports airport operators to make the switch to low and zero emission vehicles.

Responsible Heathrow 2020 is our commitment to supporting the UK and local economies and reducing Heathrow’s environmental impacts, while looking after our people and passengers. It is helping us achieve our ambition to be one of the most responsible airports in the world.

Walk and Light Flow exhibit – Powered by footsteps

The #walkandlight installation in Terminal 3 uses the power of footsteps to create an interactive installation for passengers. Inspired by a Rotterdam nightclub dance floor, Flow will see state-of-the-art technology used to convert the energy of passengers footsteps into a responsive electronic panel of changing coloured lights.

The project is the brainchild of Miguel Saddler, Augusto Siguero, Lorena Segura and Ignacio Villen, who won the 2012 Ferrovial Innovation Award for it. Read more…

To find out more about Heathrow’s sustainability programs, click here.

In honour of Heathrow’s 70th anniversary, Qantas is offering 70 people the chance to win ‘The Ultimate Trip’: a five-night stay in Sydney, Australia, travelling from Heathrow on the award-winning Qantas A380.

Qantas is celebrating a long-standing partnership with the airport that has played host to several memorable moments, such as the world’s longest non-stop non-commercial flight for which Qantas set the record in 1989.

To commemorate, travellers are invited to share their favourite Heathrow memory – from amusing anecdotes to heart-warming tales – to be in with a chance to win one of the 35 pairs of tickets available*. Entrants can upload their story at stories.heathrow.com.

“The Ultimate Trip” including 5 nights in Sydney…

Embarking on ‘The Ultimate Trip’ in May 2017, the lucky winners will have the opportunity to take in the exciting sights of the iconic Australian city during their five-night stay in a central Sydney hotel, with a full itinerary to be revealed at Heathrow in January 2017 as part of Qantas’ Australia Day celebrations.

Markus Svensson, Qantas Regional General Manager, UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa said; “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Heathrow at this very exciting time for the airport.”

“Qantas has held a fantastic partnership with Heathrow for almost 70 years and we’re proud to be able to offer 70 passengers complimentary flights to Sydney, as a celebration of the past, present and future of air travel.”

About Qantas Airways

The award-winning Qantas A380 flies daily from London Heathrow to Sydney and Melbourne, both via Dubai.

Find out more about Heathrow’s 70th birthday celebrations, here.

*Terms and conditions apply. Please visit stories.heathrow.com for further details.


From today, Private Hire Vehicles waiting to pick up Heathrow passengers will be offered parking in a dedicated, on-airport facility. The new facility, operating initially on a trial basis, aims to prevent anti-social behaviour by Private Hire Vehicle drivers while they are in local roads waiting to be booked.

Private Hire Vehicles and Licenced Taxis operating on a pre-booked basis will pay per use of the Authorised Vehicle Area (“AVA”). Toilet and food facilities on site will allow Private Hire Vehicles to wait if they arrive early for a booking or until a booking is made. Private Hire Vehicles will then proceed to the airport’s short-stay car parking for pick-ups.

Separately, Licensed Taxis will continue to use the Taxi feeder park where they can proceed to wait for passengers at Taxi ranks located in every terminal forecourt.

Heathrow has also been working with some Private Hire Operators to introduce geo-fencing in conjunction with the AVA, in order to ensure they only receive notifications for jobs at the airport if they are using the AVA.

Heathrow will improve how Private Hire Vehicle drivers serve passengers, including through a new code of conduct for Private Hire Operators and their drivers. The airport is working with local authorities, Transport for London, and the Metropolitan Police to enforce existing Heathrow Byelaws – including increased policing of forecourts and pick up of passengers.

Chris Joyce, Head of Surface Access at Heathrow said: “Heathrow is the UK’s biggest airport and a major transport hub requiring the valuable services Licenced Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles offer our passengers. However, we also have responsibilities to our neighbours and find the reports of anti-social behaviour by Private Hire Vehicle drivers unacceptable.”

“We are committed to being a better neighbour, and since being alerted by local residents, we have worked collaboratively with local authorities, residents, regulators, the London Assembly and the private hire industry to address this issue.”

Differences between Licenced Taxis and Private Hire facilities around the airport

Taxi Private hire
Remote facilities Taxi feeder park

  • Toilets
  • Washingfacilities
  • Diningfacilities
  • Accommodationfor union
  • Free wi-fi in canteen
Authorised vehicle area

  • Portable toilets
  • Rubbish bins
  • Drinks vending machines
  • Pay on foot machines
Pick up facilities Taxi rank at every terminalTaxi marshalls No dedicated facility – use short stay car park
In terminal Wayfinding in terminalInformation in onward travel leaflet and website.Information in Onward Travel Zones No specific wayfinding

During ITV’s Heathrow – Britain’s Busiest Airport, Series 2, viewers got to see one of the tightest turn arounds at the airport as British Airways cleaned and preened a return flight to Brussels in just 50 minutes! We’ve taken a look at the clockwork operation to prepare an aircraft for passengers in more detail here.

NOTE: This turn around example is based upon the 50-minute Brussels turn around featured on ITV’s Heathrow: Britain’s Busiest Airport.

On arrival

As the aircraft taxis onto stand ground loaders are on hand to “choc” the aircraft (place stops behind the wheels) and connect to auxilliary power and air-conditioning, so that engine use is minimized.

The loaders then “Cone” the aircraft – placing safety cones on the ground to protect the wings and engine areas from vehicles that will be servicing the aircraft.

Once it is safe to do so, the Turnround Manager will connect the air bridge to the aircraft at which point vehicles and handlers underneath the wing will straight away start unloading baggage and cargo.

Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Passengers leave through the front of the aircraft and during this time a team of cleaners commence cleaning the cabin (starting from the back of the aircraft), making sure all unwanted magazines, newspapers, books and left items are cleaned away from seat backs and all rubbish removed. Toilets and galley areas are cleaned and supplies replenished.

If the next flight has a new crew, the operating pilots and cabin crew will be on stand awaiting the arrival aircraft. Prior to the arrival of the aircraft, the pilots will have already gone through their pre-flight routines including studying the route of travel and weather conditions, while the cabin crew will have confirmed their expected passenger load, and noted any customers requiring any extra assistance.

5 -10 minutes after arrival

By this point, all customers will have left the aircraft and the turnaround process steps up a notch. Simultaneously, toilets are emptied (the sewerage being removed from the plane), water supplies are topped up, cabin crew are performing their safety (SEP) and security checks and new catering arrives.

Catering supplies being brought onto a British Aiways Airbus at Terminal 5 Heathrow.

Trolleys, containers housing food, beverages and duty free goods are brought onto the aircraft and safely stowed away in the galley areas.

20-40 minutes:

The aircraft interior is now ready for the next flight’s passengers, but there is still a lot to do to get it ready for take-off!

Underneath the wing, refueling of the aircraft begins and passenger baggage arrives via two loaders at either end of the aircraft to help speed up the process.

A “tug” getting ready to “push back” the aircraft. Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways.

Pilots and cabin crew will at this point liaise with the Turnround Manager to confirm all the relevant facts and figures relating to the departing flight, e.g. duration, number of passengers, destination.

The next step for the pilots is to complete their own checks of the aircraft both inside and outside, including looking at the undercarriage and engines.

Airline customer service staff liaise with the Turnround Manager to confirm everything is set for the boarding process to begin before passengers are then directed onto the aircraft.

40-45 minutes in:

At the 40 minute mark, the aircraft tug (the vehicle that “pushes-back” the aircraft from stand) arrives ready for when preparations are complete.

Meanwhile, the final elements of the boarding process and the loading of baggage and cargo is completed.

45-50 minutes in:

Doors closed! The aircraft is now ready to depart and the tug will push it back from the stand so that it can taxi to the runway.

Push back! The aircraft is now on it’s way. Picture by: Stuart Bailey / British Airways

Want to find out more about Heathrow Airport works? Check out our new Operations Explained section.


By Heathrow

Published 13th June 2016