I had the pleasure of paying a behind the scenes visit to Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 on Tuesday. I was there as part of a day organised by the airport to show some invited journalists, bloggers and spotters Heathrow’s inner workings, including NATS’ role in the control tower.

T2 is an incredibly impressive space that, once opened, will see 20 million passengers a year passing through it. What was particularly impressive was how airy the place felt thanks to the innovative roof design, and the care that has gone into designing the passenger journey through the building.

The T2 departure lounge. Click to enlarge.

The T2 departure lounge. Click to enlarge.

But, a new airport terminal isn’t only about having somewhere new to relax before jetting off on holiday; building something so ambitious in the middle of an operational airport is a real challenge. That’s why the NATS team have been working closely with the airport since the project began to ensure operations continue to run smoothly during construction and that the integration is as seamless as possible upon completion.


The check in area at the new Heathrow Terminal 2 showing the novel roof design.

Since tower controlling is such a visual business, great care has been taken with the design to ensure lines of sight are protected both during and after construction. Likewise, the development couldn’t interfere with any of the radar equipment in place around the airfield and any impact on the instrument landing system that guides in landing aircraft has had to be understood and mitigated.

And of course, the aircraft stand and taxiway information on the surface movement radar has had to be kept up to date during the different phases of building work.

T2 Departures

T2 Departures

The next step will be to train our controllers on the new stand layout to make sure everything runs smoothly once T2 opens in June next year.

Incidentally, the in the next few days Heathrow and NATS will be launching a photography competition for the spotters who attended on the day. We’ll be asking you to vote for your favourites, so watch this space.


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J Hume

Where was was this day publised beforehand ?



Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport)

For those interested in more information please see a recap of the day at http://your.heathrow.com/dossier/avgeeks-get-special-access-heathrow-visit/ . This was the first spotters’ day we’ve hosted and the enthusiasts and spotters invited along were all contacted via social media channels. Given the overwhelming response to the day, we’re looking to organise more of these events into the future.



J Hume

Maybe next time it could actually be advertised on aviation enthusiasts forums rather than ‘social media’ forums and therefore give the real enthusiasts who have been lacking viewing facilities and been largly ignored for years (something that does really need to be addressed at UK airports) a chance to experience a day like this. Even by charging a few pounds to donate to a charity (something that has be proved at other aviation events) would still attract a number of people.


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