View Full Version : LHR Incident 24/10/04 2025z ??? (or how not to jump into journo mode)

24th Oct 2004, 20:37
What has just happened at LHR?
Seems to have been a lot of panic and hot air on 118.5 with the controller calling out "we have lost 27R all hold positions".

Controller had a lot of fear in his voice in dealing with a close prox of a "Air Malta" and "Speedbird" asking them both to immediate right turn and "climb climb". I have never heard anything like it.
BA B777 forced go around whilst attempting to land 27L at the same time.

Down to single runway ops 27R only at some stage then controller asking a/c to visiually switch to 27L.

Did the distant storm tracking to the NW have anything to do with it? ATIS reporting gusting 26-40kts with windshear reported on short finals.

What on earth was going on, sounded like chaos.

Mark Lewis
24th Oct 2004, 21:33
A number of diverts too, 3 to LGW, 2 to LTN and 1 to STN by the looks of things.

Trinity 09L
24th Oct 2004, 21:44
Still waiting for pax on BD112 due 1925 local LHR, from AMS diverted to LGW:( , after holding for 25 mins around Southend, then needs to refuel to return to LHR:eek:

25th Oct 2004, 00:03
Actually, I was that controller......

There was no panic in my voice at all. Its called taking control of the RT and adopting a tone that informs pilots that they are to listen very carefully to what I am telling them because its important. There is no such thing as "hot air" in ATC

Crews were asked to hold position and maintain a degree of silence so that I could cope with arranging a radar heading for the Air Malta that was sat on the runway. This is necessary in order to visually switch traffic from the other approach. Putting an aircraft into the air that will conflict with other aircraft that are carrying out missed approaches is sometimes a necessary step in order to minimise the number of missed approaches from the other runway. The need for radio silence allows me to make phone calls and arrangements with the arrivals controller as to how we will proceed with this particular scenario and informs crews that a request for "number in sequence" will not be appreciated at this time. My respect goes out to all the crews who did exactly what I asked and allowed me to expeditiously accept traffic from the other runway. Anybody who saw it will agree that we were in a position to land on 27R within 60 secs..... Not bad considering!!!

Also, your tendency to over egg the facts disturbs me, particularly as you do not have access to all the information. The Air Malta and the Speedbird were never in close proximity. The closest they came to each other was at least 7 miles (well beyond the required sep standards). The good rate of climb was asked for so that 3000ft could be cleared rapidly on the outbound and allow for greater flexibility in the event of further missed approaches. In ATC this is a procedure known as "not dropping the arrivals guy in the $#1T". The crew were more than happy to accept the good rate of climb. The Air Malta tracked north westerly for approx 7 miles and then turned back towards the MID SID well clear of any other traffic.

Traffic is always switched back to the nominated landing runway as soon as possible when the runway is available for us. There are two main reasons for this:
1) We have a legally binding agreement to strictly adhere to runway alternation patterns
2) We can resume departing traffic on the other runway as soon as physically possible (Again a fact that I'm sure the quiet people in the holding area appreciated)

There was no drama. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing unsafe. No losses of separation. Nobody was seconds from disaster. I would suggest that you don't post rash and inflamatory comments on subjects that you know very little about and I strongly resent accusations of panic!!

My thanks go out to all my colleagues at work, our bretheren at TC and the crews who have had to endure a challenging day today. Respect!!

25th Oct 2004, 00:13

A very impressive post-reply. Speaks of calm proffesionalism, that we all strive for:ok:

25th Oct 2004, 00:17
Excellent reply from Someone who is and was on top of the situation,and an excellent retort to the scaremongerers.

Ranger One
25th Oct 2004, 00:40
Many posts on pprune float aimlessly to earth, like a fart in a trance... others, now, they land on the server with a very satisfying THUMP!

Halo isn't slipping - Post of the Week, right there.

(last time I checked my halo it was stamped 'Made in Taiwan'...)


25th Oct 2004, 02:29
Congrats to everybody involved in LHR ATC this evening.

Excellent Job done in all respects and high level of professional conduct and behaviour observed.

...Continue the good job!!!

Hellas Jet Flyer

25th Oct 2004, 02:46
Well done halo.
Not only on a job well done but for taking the time to quell yet another alarmist with a scanner.

25th Oct 2004, 03:15

Well said. More power to your elbow, mike switch and airwaves lip-flutter.

I'm always plaesed to hear from an ATC pro giving his side of the story. I readily admit that you ATCO's live in a 4th dimensional world that's wholly different from the sometimes insular and parochial sphere of the paranoid pilot.

25th Oct 2004, 04:11

This is what it is all about. Thanks Halo and my appreciation and thanks to all the ATC boys and gals I have dealt with over the years.


The Obvious Choice
25th Oct 2004, 05:57
Brilliantly put Halo !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Only watching from afar, but the other runway seemed available in loads less than 60 seconds, well done.

25th Oct 2004, 06:30
From a flying career sample of a few hundred ATC setups, LHR is the best I've experienced by a noticeably big margin.

Well done, halo, a fascinating insight into the level of skill I've regularly enjoyed (and I do mean enjoyed -- it's often made me smile) from ATC at LHR. :ok:

25th Oct 2004, 07:16
I hope I never sit behind Bristolre, but I'd trust my ex-colleagues at Heathrow with my life any time.

Congratulations Halo.

25th Oct 2004, 07:45
Well snuffed out, Halo. Respect, Man.

For those that havn't got a flippin' clue: It was a difficult day yesterday, everybody rallied round on all sides under testing conditions. We had Maydays and Pans on our side of the A4. Even Tinpot was difficult.

Nice working with you on the landline, Halo, lets bend some notes together one day......:cool:

25th Oct 2004, 07:47
A fantastic and fact filled reply, what did cause all the diversions, was it WX related??


25th Oct 2004, 11:37
A response on the thread that would seem to have mirrored the initial event. Clear, concise, immediate, and problem solved. Halo a nice one:ok:

25th Oct 2004, 12:04
OK, so we have established that Halo and Crew did a fantastic job, however still nobody has mentioned what caused the problems in the first place, I asked before if it was WX related but got no replies, anyone shed any light ????



25th Oct 2004, 12:20
halo thanks
max respect!

crusin level
25th Oct 2004, 12:23
Uk and esp. LHR ATC


25th Oct 2004, 12:31
Heavy rain and lightning battered my SW London pad yesterday evening.

25th Oct 2004, 12:44
See that Bahrainlad has just said what I was going to.

There was some severe (for us) weather around London last night -- albeit localised. Big gusts of wind and occasional heavy rain squalls.

I'm not a pilot, but I can see why some planes decided to go around. It was pretty hairy on the ground!

Well done to all.

Tarten Army
25th Oct 2004, 13:04
Good God you lot...... get a room!!!

25th Oct 2004, 18:23
Tarten Army -

You've just said what I was thinking but were afraid to post!:D

25th Oct 2004, 18:25
What a wonderful response! I wonder if the BRISTOLRE callsign will ever be heard again?

Certainly I have found his information to be somewhat lacking in the past.

Trinity 09L
25th Oct 2004, 18:45
Halo, thankyou for an excellent response at such a late hour :ok:

Farty Flaps
25th Oct 2004, 18:48
What not even teeny weeny bit scared. Men can cry too you know

southern duel
25th Oct 2004, 19:09
The Initial problems were caused by a Varig MD11 which had an engine surge on rotation from 27L. Ops were called to make sure there was no debris on the runway as is normal in this situation.
Runway was closed for 13 minutes. Because of the darkness it unfortunatly takes longer then normal to make sure everything is ok with the runway.

Happy flying

25th Oct 2004, 20:04
still doesn't answer the question as to why there were so many diverts

25th Oct 2004, 21:29

still doesn't answer the question as to why there were so many diverts

It has been alread mentioned - - bad weather.

Bad Weather = reduced landing rate = increased delays = diversions

25th Oct 2004, 21:59
October's EGLL METARs:


Yellow Snow
25th Oct 2004, 22:34
Varig MD11 wasn't departing, he'd just landed, hence going 27R single so we could get an inspection of 27L.

Small orange flash observed from number 3 engine, educated guess that it was an engine surge, the crew concurred, most likely reason they felt was the amount of standing water sucked into the engine whilst using a high amount of reverse thrust. No cockpit indication of anything untoward, engine shut down as a precaution, no fire service attendance.

No Emergency :eek:

maybe a little adrenaline (perk of the job) :hmm:

No Drama :eek:

And most importantly no need for an alarmist initial post that'll get journos choking on their donuts or bagels if you work for the Guardian

Just a usual busy night at EGLL that as it pains me deeply to say it was very professionally handled by Halo:yuk:, makes a change.

25th Oct 2004, 22:59
Oh my god, Yellow Snow on the desk! Is nowhere safe????

professionally handled by Halo, makes a change

Scurrilous accusation!!!! :}

25th Oct 2004, 23:49
Perhaps a little of topic but....

Ten miles 28R, IMC and we are informed Air India has burst tyres on landing. Offered switch by ATC. The 757 needed the Autopilot out to "de-establish from the ILS", re-engaged in VS and heading select. 30 degree attack towards 28L centre line, Excellent P2 retuned the ILS's to 28L, swapped letdown booklets (already opened at the 28L ILS plate for me). Established on the ILS and at 1000 feet "gave" the aircraft to the copilot for his landing

The high points were the excellent support from ATC and my copilot (that saved a go around).

The low point was the debrief from the female CAA inspector sitting behind us (who had joined us in Madrid without warning). All she could say was that I had the incorrect letdown plate on my clip (after the runway switch). I suggested differently. She responded that although the plate I was using was for the ILS 28L it was the northerly approach from Bovingdon and the correct one should have been the southerly approach from Biggin!!! I resisted the urge to suggest there was no difference once established on the ILS.

So, so out of touch it wasn't true.

She never smiled, mind you that could have been due to the thickness of make-up she was wearing.

I went home thinking "a job well done". I wonder what she did.

Del Prado
26th Oct 2004, 09:47
28R ? You did have the wrong plates out !

Thanks for the post though, woodpecker, it's interesting to know how much workload is involved for a late switch like that.

B Fraser
26th Oct 2004, 11:37
Well done everyone !

I was on my way to LHR early evening and the weather was foul with traffic slowing to around 40mph due to driving rain. We were 60 mins late on pushback due to both runways accepting inbound aircraft however it sounds like the pro's earned their crust that night and the SLF down the back (like me) were none the wiser.

After everything returned to normal, I was most impressed at the way ATC / crews handled the resulting departure "scrum" on 28R.

egll 28r
26th Oct 2004, 12:42
Hey all this talk of 28R makes me feel at home (and old!). Over many many years I have never heard any of the kind of clap trap that comes up on some of these so called documentaries/films and outsiders "accounts" of incidents. What I have heard is years and years of brilliant controlling, with the highest of standards and professionalism (and of course some humour!).

Let's hope more people think before they write.

27th Oct 2004, 08:16
Just to show my age,

When did the variation change such that the the 28's became the 27's?

When did 23L become 23 (the closure of 23R)?

When was the last landing on 23?

28th Oct 2004, 19:24
My first opportunity to reply after a week overseas. I would
like to stand up and take this opportunity to publically offer apologies to Halo in the nature of my posting.

Sundays' posting was never meant to cause offence or call into question anyones' ability at work. I apologise sincerely for any other way in which my wording was construed or interpreted.

I wrote what I wrote in good faith as events began to unfold which made me quite edgy, as what appeared to a major situation, evolved. Hearing what I heard on the RT gave me greater sense of waryness.

Thankfully everything was handled safely and well as with the usual professionalism of all concerned at Heathrow and that is reflected in every reply to this thread.

The location of my work takes me within the great ramps and pavements
of LHR. I am not a die hard scanner listener getting all
carried away. Lets say that I have access to this as part of my work tools.

What I genuinely witnessed, observed and overheard on the RT was not
made up, not fiction, never nor was it deliberately engaging "journo" mode. This is the danger of anonymity on PPRUNE I guess, accused of being Journalistic - lessons have been learned - please accept my apology and dsire to respond.

At the end of the day the question which I asked was eventually
answered as to what caused all of Sunday nights' events.

a message to you,, Your comments regarding my posts lacking of information - your comments via PM always welcome on specific points where you feel the need to put me right.
The callsign will be heard again, let me assure you.

Barry Cuda
29th Oct 2004, 07:36
Well done, Bristolre, on being honest enough to own up to making a mistake instead of just disappearing off and leaving things up in the air.


Out of interest, what job do you do that lets you "have access to this as part of my work tools". Or is it secret squirrel?

29th Oct 2004, 10:28
Halo.... You have justifiably earned the upmost respect and admiration from a whole bunch of people. I take my hat off to you sir for one of the most enjoyable reads I have ever seen on this site, an accurate, non-emotional, factual presentation of a few minutes of what is probably a normal event for you and your colleagues. Pilots, airlines and the general public owe you guys tons. My upmost praise to you sir, well done and thanks !

29th Oct 2004, 11:50
Out of interest, what job do you do that lets you "have access to this as part of my work tools". Or is it secret squirrel?

Weel according to his homepage he's based in the midlands and is 'current' on the following aircraft:


- is that push back..?!

29th Oct 2004, 15:49

Thank you for taking the time to write your retort. I only hope that when i get my atpl that i get the chance to be guided up, down or anywhere by you!

nice work!


29th Oct 2004, 16:13
From Seattle to Singapore nothing beats LHR ATC.
Heathrow ATC is the best in the world.

Brgds Scandinavian


29th Oct 2004, 17:54
Hi folks,

Thank you very much for all your kind words. I have the utmost respect for all the people I work with and all the people that receive our service. It is as always a pleasure to work with some of the most professional people in the industry in all aspects of the operation at Heathrow, and I hope we will continue to keep things fun and friendly for everybody at the sharp end.

Your comments about the way we interact with each other are always welcome :D

BristolRE, thank you for your most gracious reply


Early Right
29th Oct 2004, 23:55
respect halo, you guys at LHR ATC are simply the best around.
Excelent work.....

30th Oct 2004, 15:45
Respect, Halo. Nicely explained and i know about the LHR airspace-no error margins.Well done by the sounds of it:ok:

Doors to Automatic
30th Oct 2004, 16:34

The 28s became 27s around June 1987. 23L became 23 much earlier than that, I'm guessing the early 1970s.

Not sure when 23 accepted it's last landing but I would guess sometime last year.

30th Oct 2004, 20:18
Not sure when it changed but I was Tower Controller on the night it changed, and I've still got the old 28L designator as a souvenir. See Here (http://www.tamarweb.net/images/28l.jpg).

I'll make some enquiries with the scribes that are writing the Heathrow book, or maybe HD remembers?

30th Oct 2004, 22:12
Serfing ATCO,

HD is with the nurse at the moment about his Altzheimers, provided he remembers his appointment.

Doors is about right with Summer 87. The BP / PB Scribes will know exactly.

All I got away with was the "runway-blocked" fridge magnets......

But at least I can now print off your jpeg and put it in a strip-holder......


Warped Factor
31st Oct 2004, 15:58

I've got the old 05 designator if you want a copy of that as well, or maybe I should stick it on eBay ;) :)


31st Oct 2004, 17:22
Admissions of stealing NATS property! I don't suppose a "New Horizions" mug found it's way into the surfingatco home either ;)

31st Oct 2004, 17:28
Remember, the "old disused runway 05 is closed!":E

31st Oct 2004, 18:15
:D The "Disused Runway 05" designator is still in the pile by the sups desk ;)

Knackered Nigel
31st Oct 2004, 21:17
UK ATC are in my opinion the best in Europe, not only in terms of controlling, ie having an understanding of what an aircraft can do - realistic speeds/changes on approach, but also in terms of your situational awareness.

In particular at Heathrow, you guys and gals have one heck of a mental model going, and you share it with us by advising us of other aircraft movements etc.

When the unexpected happens, you do a great job of reworking your plans.

Enough of the praise, but I feel it is deserved. I couldn't do your job!


2nd Nov 2004, 00:22
Group Hug :p


3rd Jan 2005, 20:14
I know it's a bit late, but I found out from PB that the most likely date for the change from 28s/10s to 27s/09s was the night of 2nd July 1987.

And Jerricho, a New Horizon mug never touched my lips! See you soon? Happy New Year!

3rd Jan 2005, 20:22
<<I know it's a bit late, but I found out from PB that the most likely date for the change from 28s/10s to 27s/09s was the night of 2nd July 1987>>

I recall it well.. BAA had commissioned the heaviest moving equipment to move the runways round that few degrees but by about 3am they had to give up. Fortunately I was able to hastily get my Reliant Robin (it was HTF 443N Al) from the car park and that extra power enabled them to reposition the runways in time for the morning rush.

NURSE... the screens.. quick....

Colonel Klink
3rd Jan 2005, 20:29
There is many a longhaul pilot that has trekked across the Middle East ( usually at night) and over some very dodgy countries to end up breathing a sigh of relief when transferred to London ATC, then Heathrow. The ATC is first class and the best I've ever used, anywhere in the world.:O

urdy gurdy
3rd Jan 2005, 21:56
calmly delt with halo but why is every ne saying well done etc...
its what your paid for!!!!
blown out of all proporion by everyone i suspect