Heathrow’s longest serving firefighter retires after 40 years


By Heathrow

Published 22nd December 2017

Home > Must See > Heathrow's longest serving firefighter retires after 40 years

Home > Must See > Heathrow's longest serving firefighter retires…

Heathrow’s longest serving firefighter, Andy “Peter Pan” Preston, will retire this week after 40 years and 9 months working at the airport. We caught up with Andy to hear his story and see some of the great pics from his time at the airport.

After initially beginning his career as a firefighter in the Royal Air Force, Andy began working at Heathrow in March 1977 after a recommendation from a friend in the service.

Back then, BAA Firefighters, as they were known as then, also operated an Emergency Ambulance section on top of their fire-fighting duties.

PHOTO: One of the emergency ambulances that Heathrow firefighters used early in Andy's career.

One of the emergency ambulances that Heathrow firefighters used early in Andy’s career.

Andy, who lives in Windsor, recalls how he has seen the airport and the service change dramatically in the four decades since.

When I first started at Heathrow there was no Terminal 4 or 5, no Piccadilly Line service, and a third-runway – 23/05 – which was used during cross winds. The aircraft in use were also a lot different, and noisier, aircraft like VC10s, Tridents and BAC One-Elevens.

Andy Preston, Firefighter

“A lot of the kit has also changed in that time in the fire service, for instance when I first started we were using Nubian major fire tenders and now we’re using the state-of-the-art Rosenbauer Panthers.”

PHOTO: Andy at the old Heathrow firefighter sub-station, today where T2 is, with one of the old Nubian fire trucks .

Andy at the old Heathrow firefighter sub-station, today where T2 is, with one of the old Nubian fire trucks .

“Operating the ambulance section was also a really challenging and rewarding job as we’d be busy helping out passengers with medical conditions, who were unable to get on and off aircraft, as well as assisting emergency patients.”

Watching Concorde for the final time…

In 2003, Andy was on hand to celebrate the Concorde after it touched down from its final commercial flight at the airport – his favourite memory from his career.

“Concorde flights had just started at the airport when I began working here and it was as if the whole airport stopped whenever it took off and simply marvelled at it.”

“Needless to say, I’ll always remember being on duty when they flew the Concorde fleet for the last time at the airport. I was on one of the firetrucks that gave a ceremonial water cannon salute (arch) to the three final flights shortly after they all landed – a moment I’ll never forget.”

PHOTO: Andy (R) receiving his 25 years service award.

Andy (R) receiving his 25 years service award.

Amazingly, Andy didn’t actually want to be a firefighter in the beginning.

“I initially wanted to be a police dog handler but when I was told by the RAF recruitment office in 1972 that I was not big enough and there were no vacancies the recruitment officer persuaded me to become a firefighter.”

“By chance, the officer was himself an ex-RAF firefighter. In the end he helped me make the best decision I’ve ever made.”

PHOTO: Andy on the Heathrow airfield many years ago when it was covered by snow.

Andy on the Heathrow airfield many years ago when it was covered by snow.

Andy was nicknamed “Peter Pan” as his colleagues believed he “never grew up” despite his long tenure at the airport.

After he hangs up the uniform, Andy is looking forward to getting married in May next year to his fiancee Susan, and finding a new working challenge.

PHOTO: Andy completing the mandatory fire fighting boat training at Southampton. This training is so that they can handle rescue craft if there were incidents in reservoirs around the airport.

Andy completing the mandatory fire fighting boat training at Southampton. This training is so that they can handle rescue craft if there were incidents in reservoirs around the airport.

Andy will complete his final shift on 26 December, Boxing Day. From all of us at Heathrow we say thank you!

This weekend marks the 40 years since Her Majesty the Queen opened the first London Underground Tube link to the airport via the Heathrow Central Station.

On December 16, 1977, Queen Elizabeth II was on hand to officially open the extension of the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow following a £71m, 2-year, project.

At the time, the connection between the centre of the capital city, London, and the airport was the first of its kind in the world.

11th December 2017 – Cakes celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Heathrow Central (now Heathrow 1,2,3).

Since then, Piccadilly Line stations have been added at both Terminal 4 (1986) and Terminal 5 (2008).

Today over 17.7 million journeys are made to and from the airport via the Piccadilly Line.

Late last year, in 2016, the connection was boosted further by the arrival of Night Tube services – serving the airport 24-hours a day on Friday and Saturday nights.

Next year the airport will also begin welcoming the initial phase of connections to The Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) with increased services to follow in 2019.




Heathrow has collaborated with Apple to bring detailed terminal maps to Apple Maps, providing passengers with a powerful new tool to navigate through the airport and find what they are looking for.

Right from Apple Maps on their iPhone or iPad, passengers can plan their journey through the airport in advance of their flight, including finding nearby restaurants, places to buy last minute sun cream and gifts before take-off as well as the important points of interest such as baggage claim, customers, and restrooms.

Indoor positioning gives passengers an instant view of where they are within the terminal which helps them get to where they need to go next. And they can easily toggle between floors.

The Heathrow terminal maps in Apple Maps will be updated regularly to ensure accuracy including when new store locations and pop-ups open.

This innovative milestone is part of Heathrow’s digital transformation, ensuring passengers can plan their journey before they’ve arrived at the airport. Travellers can select restaurants on the map and gain contact information, enabling them to click straight through to book a table, reserve a product, or contact a lounge.

Stephen Glenfield, Senior Digital Manager, said, “Bringing detail terminal maps to Apple Maps marks a huge milestone in improving the digital experience at Heathrow.”

Improving navigation and giving passengers information about the broad and exciting retail, restaurants and services we offer as well as logistical information about where restrooms and information points are will give them the opportunity to plan every step and as a result, enjoy every moment of the journey.

– Senior Digital Manager, Stephen Glenfield

Indoor airport maps are available to all iPhone and iPad users running iOS 11 and above. Detailed airport maps are available at more than two dozen airports around the world.

Heathrow has released new data revealing the wide array and surprising volumes of seasonal exports that fly in the bellyhold of planes in the month leading up to Christmas. Over 143 million kilos of Christmas cargo is expected to fly through Heathrow to destinations around the world from November 24th to December 25th – a record to date.

  • Over 143 million kilograms of Christmas cargo expected to fly via Heathrow to the world in the month leading up to December 25th, a record to date

  • New data reveals sharp spike in exports of seasonal essentials including Christmas lights, calendars, fish, lobster, and meat

  • Heathrow launches the “12 Exporters of Christmas” social media campaign to bring these festive exporting stories to life

As the biggest port in the UK by value, Heathrow plays a crucial role in delivering the essential ingredients to Christmas celebrations to British homes and homes all over the world. The airport’s data from November and December 2016 shows a clear spike in the volume of certain Christmas staples coming into the airport and out to non-EU destinations, including:

  • Christmas lighting sets – 27,467 kg (up from an average of 7,203 kg/month from January – October)
  • Frozen lobster – 443,146 kg (up from an average of 163,312 kg/month from January – October)
  • Calendars – 31,316 kg (up from an average of 3,382 kg/month from January – October)
  • Dried flowers, including for decorations – 310,677 kg (up from an average of 109,796 kg/month from January – October)

Salmon was the most popular export to non-EU destinations overall by weight in November and December 2016, with 6,070,000 kg of fish (equivalent to approximately 480 New London Routemaster Buses) recorded as flying through. Exports of books were the second most popular commodity – with a recorded 4,834,000 kg going through last year (or approximately 382 New London Routemaster buses).

The top 5 cargo destinations outside the EU

Heathrow’s data also reveals the top 5 destinations these exports are flying to outside the EU – showing the majority of long-haul exports are destined for American markets:

  • United States (15.31 million kilograms)
  • China (6.20 million kilograms)
  • UAE (3.77 million kilograms)
  • Australia (3.36 million kilograms)
  • Hong Kong (2.77 million kilograms)

To highlight the wide array of exports flying out of its gates, Heathrow has today launched a “12 Exporters of Christmas” social media campaign. Each day in the lead up to Christmas, Heathrow will highlight individual stories of SMEs up and down the country that rely on the airport to export British Christmas essentials including tea, jams and biscuits across the world.

In total, Heathrow has seen a record 290,340,803 kilograms of exports flying through from January to October to non-EU destinations this year – an 8.5% increase from the same period last year. These exports are worth an astounding £39.62 billion.

Nick Platts, Head of Cargo at Heathrow Airport said, “Heathrow is at its busiest time at Christmas – and this year, we not only expect record numbers of passengers to fly through, but also a record amount of cargo to be flown in the holds under their feet.

Santa may still have the claim on the most deliveries on Christmas Eve, but for the months before it, Heathrow is doing its bit to export our British Christmas across the world.

– Heathrow Head of Cargo, Nick Platts

Heathrow has reached a key milestone in its pledge to ‘Go Electric’ with the delivery of the 50th electric vehicle to the airport’s fleet. This is a key step in Heathrow’s promise to make all of its cars and small vans electric or plug-in hybrid by 2020 to help improve air quality around the airport. The 50 electric vehicles reduce the airport’s fleet emissions by 165 tonnes CO2/year, equivalent to the amount of energy used by 18 homes annually.

• Heathrow welcomes its 50th electric vehicle as part of its pledge to go electric

• The UK’s hub airport has the highest density of EV charging infrastructure in Europe

• Heathrow is working with TfL to deliver one of London’s first rapid chargers for black cabs

This announcement comes as Heathrow celebrates receiving two awards for their fleet. The airport recently received the award for Ultra-Low Emission Infrastructure at the Energy Saving Trust’s 2017 Fleet Hero Awards. Heathrow won the accolade for the airport’s achievements growing the current charging infrastructure, which is now the site with the highest density of charging infrastructure in Europe. Heathrow’s has over 80 charging points available to passengers, colleagues and airside vehicles.

The airport’s charging infrastructure has also contributed towards Heathrow’s win at the Commercial Fleet Awards. Heathrow was awarded the Environment and Low Carbon award at the event for the work done to improve air quality with the use of electric and plug in hybrid vehicles.

Since pledging to ‘Go Electric’, Heathrow has spent over £4 million in charging infrastructure, with a total of more than £5 million committed to be spent by the end of 2018. Heathrow is also actively working in collaboration with TfL to install seven rapid charging points for black cabs before the end of 2017.

These rapid charging points, some of the first in London, will support the Mayor’s requirements for all newly licensed black cabs to be either electric or plug in hybrid by 1 Jan 2018. These chargers will be installed in Heathrow’s Taxi Feeder Park and will work over three times faster than the average charger.

New rail lines and EV100 commitment set to continue Heathrow improvements

This move, along with Heathrow’s efforts to provide new public transport options into the airport like Crossrail and a potential Western Rail access, will reduce emissions and congestion related to airport traffic, and set a bold direction towards a future of sustainable aviation. Since committing to a new sustainability strategy, Heathrow 2.0, the airport has set out to establish itself as a world-leading airport in reducing emissions from all sources of activity, both on and off airport.

Heathrow was one of the first ten companies in the world to commit to EV100, which making takes Heathrow’s commitment to electric technology further by tying the airport to turning all large vans and half of its HGV’s electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030.

Our sustainability strategy, Heathrow 2.0, and global commitments like EV100 tie Heathrow to some ambitious but realistic targets to clean up our fleet and speed up the take-up of electric technology across our airport. Since our pledge to switch to electric cars and vans in 2015 we have made tremendous progress towards improving air quality in our city, but we are committed to go further yet.

– Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye

The best of West London, Surrey and the Thames Valley businesses joined Heathrow, business leaders, tier one suppliers and Executive Chairman Lord Deighton for the 21st annual Heathrow Business Summit earlier this month.

The Summit, held on November 8, connected over 200 SMEs directly with Heathrow’s biggest suppliers which shared their expertise in attaining contract opportunities at the airport. This year, Heathrow also launched a new pilot apprenticeship programme which linked Higher Education and Further Education institutions with hundreds of SMEs, to encourage them to hire more apprentices.

SMEs took advantage of the unique opportunity to trade face-to-face with one another, Heathrow and the airport’s supply chain. Participants joined in speed-dating style sessions with procurement managers representing businesses based at Heathrow and within the airport’s supply chain.

The Department of International Trade were also on hand to give businesses expert advise on how to take the first steps towards exporting products with the help of the UK’s only hub airport.

These one-to-one meetings come as Heathrow prepares the groundwork for its multi-billion pound expansion project. The event forms part of airport’s commitment to promoting business opportunities for SMEs and is a key initiative in Heathrow’s ambition to end local youth unemployment by giving opportunities to local businesses.

“We all have a common interest in making the local area around Heathrow the very best it can be” – Lord Deighton

The annual Summit has been successful in helping to grow Heathrow’s local boroughs’ economy through business rates and direct investments in the 21 years since its inception.

Heathrow Chairman Lord Deighton said, “We all have a common interest in making the local area around Heathrow the very best it can be. Nothing exemplifies that more than us all coming together to highlight the opportunities available for SMEs and to encourage them to reap the benefits for having the UK’s hub airport on their doorstep – there are many great examples, including TrueForm, a Hillingdon based hardware company who came to the Business Summit for the first time last year and immediately were offered a trial contract from Mace.”

We have a vision to give passengers the best customer service in the world and with the help of our ever growing supply chain, I know we can deliver that.

– Heathrow Chairman, Lord Paul Deighton

Heathrow is moving forward with its plans to deliver expansion, and its economic boost of up to £211 billion, 180,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships. Engaging with a wider supply chain is key to achieving those ambitions and will help to ensure Heathrow delivers a legacy of increased construction productivity for future generations.

Heathrow Business Summits now held across the UK

The Heathrow Business Summit follows five other successful Summits held in South West, North West, Wales, North East and Scotland – all of which form part of the airports pledge to create jobs in every corner of the UK.

Heathrow has now announced we’ll be hosting 10 Heathrow Business Summits around the UK in 2018 to ensure every region benefits from the expansion of Heathrow.

Heathrow Business Summit – 8 November 2017

Chief Executive of Surrey Chambers of Commerce Louise Punter said, “It’s fantastic to see a vibrant mix of small and medium sized businesses engaging with Heathrow’s main contractors. The more our members are aware of the huge opportunities available at Heathrow now and in the future the better.”

Heathrow has done a brilliant job bringing this event together and leading on the initiative. We hope to work with the airport in the coming months to continue the flow of business opportunities.

– Chief Executive of Surrey Chambers of Commerce, Louise Punter

Chief Executive of West London Business Andrew Dakers said, “The Heathrow Business Summit is a firmly established milestone in the West London business community’s annual calendar. It provides a vital opportunity for businesses of all sizes to access opportunities in the airport’s supply chain through a series of structured one to one meetings – as well as space for informal networking throughout the day.”

“For West London Business – as the sub-region’s business leadership forum – our team find huge value in reconnecting with established partner companies. The Summit also enables us to meet businesses for the first time that may be in their early stages of growth and seeking our support in raising their profile in the local marketplace.”

Chief Executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Paul Britton said, “The Heathrow Business Summit 2017 is a fantastic leading event that gives local SMEs the opportunity to connect directly with Heathrow’s supply chain. The event continues to grow year on year and provides fantastic insights and opportunities for businesses to connect and develop new business.”

“The Thames Valley Chamber are proud to be long term partners of the Business Summit and its evolving success.”


By Heathrow

Published 1st December 2017