The Heathrow skyline changed forever at the end of November, when one of its most iconic features – the orange and white radar next to Terminal 1 – was removed.
NATS installed the Heathrow 23cm (H23) SREM-5 radar – to give it its full name – back in the early 1980s. It then remained fully operational until 1999 when the antenna was replaced. The radar provided en route and airport radar services until it was then finally decommissioned two years ago and replaced by the new radar station in Bovingdon.
The planning for the removal started more than a year ago. Taking it down at the end of November was always going to be very challenging, not only in terms of weather and visibility but also because it is in a very congested location, right next to Terminal 1.
We commissioned specialist engineers to test and dismantle it in what was a painstaking task carried out over a period of 10 days (and nights), something you can see sped up into one minute in the below timelapse video.
The first task was to test the antenna, then frame by frame, the antenna components were disassembled on top of car park 1A.
Generally the work was undertaken by a team of nine, split between days and night shifts. Apart from problems with visibility – which prevented crane operations on three nights – everything went to plan which is testament to the skill and professionalism of the team and great cooperation we had from the airport.
Overall the project involved the removal of 28 tonnes of antenna and turning gear components, comprising 18 major items – the largest single lift was the pedestal unit at 8.5 tonnes. The numerous components were then shipped off to a specialist company for refurbishment.
But, what now for the radar? The good news is it isn’t going to waste. When the Lowther Hill radar was damaged by high winds in December 2013, we had to replace its antenna with an operational spare. The H23 antenna will now be refurbished, and backfill that.
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