View Full Version : Heathrow T4 a/c congestion

Point Seven
7th Jul 2003, 23:38
Never mind Terminal Five, isn't it about time we sorted out T4? I'm writing this while still fresh in the memory, but I was just doing 121.7 (1315 -1430) and had 8 or 9 in a queue, including two towing aircraft, stretching from Block 93 to the western end of 111. The apron controlling authority then decided to give vacating stands to the two towing planes and the two at the back of the queue. Now, excuse for me for sounding stupid, but how the f*ck am i going to get them there. The concrete south of 27L is extremely limited and moving one holding plane has seriousd repercussions as to how you can manoeuvre the rest. And with the Airfield Authority in the FINITE wisdom not letting us use 85 to cross (no longer a safety issue, just that "they haven't got round to painting some Runway Ahead markings cos they're busy") there is only one way out. Everyone got hugely delayed, I'm sure one BA 777 was waiting for nearly the whole time and was good enough to visit every block in T4 at least once!!

It's not very often I do this but thanks to all the patient LAJ and BAW (and one KLM and ALK) pilots who did their best to help me out and never complained once. However, I'm considering whether to file an overload report because it was unacceptable to all parties concerned. If a serious emergency had appeared on my frequency, I won't count the Air Jamaica that did, it could all have gone tits up.

Anyone involved, or not, care to comment?


8th Jul 2003, 02:05
If you file an overload in the tower do 'they' not just pull your licence ?

8th Jul 2003, 02:19
Can only agree with you, P7.


27L for landing means we can only cross a/c at one point. If the Blk 85 crossing isn't open by this Thursday, then we will de-alternate. Of course, with T4 over-capacity already since all those Gatwick services moved over post 9-11, since we've lost blk 85 of course BA haven't allowed any more time in their schedules to alow for the greatly increased towing time from No.1 or Bealine Base to T4, oh no! Rumour has it that recently an Amsterdam sevice was actually cancelled because the a/c being towed to T4 just couldn't get there in time, and this is why we are now to 'remote hold' towers as well as outbound a/c.

Of course, that leads on to another point. Remote holders......we get a pat on the back from unit management the more remote holders we have. But the more slot delays there are, the more remote holders. So all we have to do to look good is delay a/c!!!!!!!!

I had a very interesting session of GMC2 the other day from 1430-1530. Of course, just my luck that the last six a/c landing on 27R before we alternated were T4 a/c. Carnage. At one stage I had eleven a/c waiting to cross at 86.

Of course, had to bandbox shortly after that..............


Point Seven
8th Jul 2003, 04:29

Overload reports do not get your licence pulled they just get investigated and the tapes pulled to be listened to.


8th Jul 2003, 05:20
Had the pleasure of listening to you trying to keep the plot, and I only got a short burst of it and was not aware of all your other problems! On a related note I feel that you guys are having to work a lot harder repeating basic taxi clearances since the change of GMC terminology ie. block this then block that etc...

LHR was the best place as you guys simply said 1st right next left not the longwinded ICAO format. Thus you are increasing you workload as a consequence.

The reason they can't paint "RWY AHEAD" is probably because they are trying to fill all the gaps in the taxiways that keep triggering "Events" on our safety monitoring equipment due to the high loading events whilst taxiing, otherwise known as "Potholes"!

I was very impressed with the reaction to the V S that stopped after vacating 27L the other day and how well you guys appeared to cope, is this the sort of occurence that would soon cause you an overload?


8th Jul 2003, 07:02
Hmmm, well in the event that the tower controller has not issued taxi instructions as well, vacating aircraft are (hello anyone listening....required) to stop, not just barge down any taxiway they feel like.

LHR is a mess, and quite frankly, many other airports in Europe work much better...AMS comes to mind, even FRA.:E

8th Jul 2003, 10:38
411A, we're talking about a VIR A340 that had smoking undercarriage due to, I think, brakes seizing on. The crew did well to get off the runway. I'm not too sure of what the exact cause of it was, because I was busy trying to control my own airshow of multiple go-arounds and persuading the Iberia on short final that 'Go around' really did mean 'go around', and not 'cleared to land'

And I really doubt that any of us would describe LHR as anything other than a mess. Though we'd probably use stronger language.

Fadec, you should have seen the inside of the tower at the time!!!!!! You weren't on one of the ones turned round in the holding area, were you? :D


Feather #3
8th Jul 2003, 19:46
As an occasional T4 user, I see the place as meltdown and feel very sorry for everybody who has to work there on a daily basis.

I'd not considered the load on ATC and for that apologise. Playing airport chess with a/c holding to get a gate at T4 can't be a barrel of laughs, especially when after the last 'snow' event, the other terminals were 'ops normal' fairly quickly!

Sadly, unless BA spread their load to LGW again, it would seem we're all stuck with it.

It's the pax for whom I feel most sorry. They seem to come last in all this.

G'day :hmm:

8th Jul 2003, 22:54
As a former stand planner in the various Terminal Controls, T.4/T.1 I can tell you it's a total nighmare of a chess game to play. In the end there are just too many aircraft trying to find a space to park in too small an area. Once a flight goes Tec/late with missing passengers, God the list is endless you might as well throw any pre planning out of the window.

Fun Job, lots of laughs, great people to work with, don't miss the unending pressure. Just how much worse is it for the guys in the Tower they are dealing with lives.

8th Jul 2003, 23:34
Just how much worse is it for the guys in the Tower they are dealing with lives.



Nobody told me that! They said it was just a big computer game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lloyd christmas
9th Jul 2003, 00:56
If there are T4 stand allocators reading this, I'm certain your job is very difficult, but you need to be talking to your managers 'cos it ain't workin'.

They brought in stands 429 - 432 in the recent past and we were told it would ease congestion, but if it has done I look like a young Alf Roberts.

Gonzo, you say you get a pat on the back by our unit managers for dealing with remote holders...REALLY? I must be doing something wrong or not mixing in the right circles.

By the way, I would like to praise the professionalism of the BA crews (and KLM, LAJ, ALK for that matter). It must be very difficult to spend all that time flying and then get on the ground and wait up to an hour to get on the gate. God only knows what you tell the passengers...but I very rarely hear any adverse comments from the crew on the RT. Believe me, people like Gonzo and Point 7 do try and get you to your gate as quick as poss, but sometimes its asking an awful lot.

Just out of interest, are there any other airports in the world, where you can expect to wait so long for a gate in normal circumstances???

9th Jul 2003, 01:45
Lloyd christmas,

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the more remote holders we have, the more 'extra stand capacity' we create, and thus the better our management look when they tell BA how much extra stand capacity we've created this month.

And of course that's not even starting on the divisive way the stats are presented - by Watch, without taking into account centre staffing levels, Weather, incidents etc. For example, we have an afternoon shift when half of LACC goes off sick and CBs all over the place, thus lots of bad slots, thus lots of remote holding, say xxxx minutes. The morning shift handled more traffic, but LACC was fully (???) staffed, and weather was good, so hardly any slot times, and no remotee holding. Looking at the graph we get sent by Ops our performance was much better!

Then using the 'minutes remote holding against watch' graph, someone grabs hold of the morning shift manager and says, 'hey, why didn't you remote hold anyone? That other watch did much better last month!'



lloyd christmas
9th Jul 2003, 01:56
Yeah but the point I'm trying to make is when did you or I get a pat on the back?

As you say, our managers look good whan they produce these stats about remote holds and how stands were freed up. Do they get bonuses for this? One thing is for certain we get diddly shit.

9th Jul 2003, 02:28
Us get a pat on the back from anyone higher up than Watch Manager?


Hang on.

It's coming..............

Nope, I give up.


I take your point.


PS And related...when was the last time you saw a remote holder push back, and an inbound a/c park on its gate? If we're doing this to free up stands, then there must be something I'm missing. Surely it can't all be to allow BA to claim an on-time departure? No, can't be. That's just too cynical! Thinking about it, the only time I've seen cases of remote holders freeing up stands for inbounds are the two early Midlands parked on 130 and 125 who invariably block the South African 747s.

9th Jul 2003, 03:01
This sounds like any business that you care to mention these dayes ...

1) People with the word 'manager' in their job title when they have no idea how to manage their own breakfast.

2) Everything based on pure numbers, as if they told the whole story.

3) People presenting 'results' at the end of the month that bear no relationship to what actually happened in the office/factory or on the shop floor/airfield.

4) The folks at the top having no though-line of knowledge and understanding (two different things!) to those who are actually doing the work that brings in the company's money.

Currently, the British Government is trying to run the whole country on this basis and, it is my candid opinion, it is not working there either! I have not seen this 'method' work in any company and do not expect to see it work in government or an airport!

OK, personal opinion coming up. I have never worked for an airline or an airport so I know know nothing! I have only been a pax at LHR for 38 years and working in commerce for 23 so ... I know nothing!

Eventually, it will all just get too much and too many holes in the Swiss cheese will line up and we will have a heck of a mess all over the place. It might start on the ground, it might start in the air but the current situation is unsustainable.

Human beings are holding a bad system together with their finger nails. People are working above and beyond to keep LHR (and the rest of the LTMA) working. They are keeping bread on the table of BAA and keeping all of us off the news headlines. It cannot last because these situations never do. The world is littered with similar stories (in other areas) and something will fail. We all know the nasty witch hunt that will follow.

To those of you that keep this deck of cards in balance - my deep appreciation and admiration for what you do.

Point Seven
9th Jul 2003, 07:07
Gonzo and lloyd

The only pat I have ever got on my back is cow pat.


9th Jul 2003, 12:08
Terminal 4 is a disaster. Iíve also had the misfortune to go through as a passenger in the last week. An hour waiting for bags, last minute stand change from Victors toWhiskeys with little old ladies trying to run half a mile to the bus at -10. Disaster.

The problem is that the operation is inadequately resourced. I can turn an airplane round as quick as you like, but if thereís no fuel, steps, buses, wheelchairs, chocks, ground power, airbridge, dispatcher, catering, highlift, stand guidance, toilet truck, baggage handlers, then I canít do anything.

The terminal should be run like the pits at Silverstone, everything there, waiting, poised to make the turnround. That way stand occupancy is reduced to the absolute minimum, and the throughput of the terminal can be optimized. Itís not as if the aircraft arrive unexpectedly, most of them took off yesterday.

Itís just down to the amount of soldiers required and the tactical expertise of the planners. Forget the plan you wrote last night, rip it up, the plan is now, the problem is yours. Sadly BA are reducing the number of soldiers to protect the jobs of the generals and emperors. They are using exactly the wrong policies for a problem thatís rapidly getting out of control, 180 degrees away from the solution.

This is a manifest failure of Customer Service and Operations. That particular Emperor has proved his ineptitude and should go, quickly.

My sympathies to all who suffer this cataclysm everyday, but those of us who have to operate in this environment have just about given up on the management. They are wistfully daydreaming, Micawber like, waiting for T5 to open. Theyíre off the plot.
Iíll take on the opposition anyday. Itís my management I canít beat!:{

Flip Flop Flyer
9th Jul 2003, 15:49
There I was, about to book a ticket to a far away country. LHR would usually be very far down my list of transit airports, now it's moved to the bottom. BA are, surprisingly, a bit cheaper than the alternatives. However, I'll persuade the company to send me via somewhere else to save on time and stress.

I'm actually surprised LHR could get any worse. It used to be that the terminals were utter crap, and I suspect they still are, the holding patters long and tedious, the baggage recovery a mess and transit bags sent in any other direction than the one intended. Now it seems Ground Movements is also in shables, "perfecting" a picture of utter chaos.

LHR - To Be Avoided If At All Possible.

Sorry for the guys and gals who have to work in this misery. Even more sorry for the guys and gals who might loose their jobs as (transit) passengers turn away from LHR and seek other alternatives. AMS is not a bad place to transit. Hell, even CDG and FRA are better, and that speak volumes of the level LHR has reached.

So what is the solution? Reduce traffic at LHR, moving it to one or more of the other London airports? Yes, that will ease the congestion at LHR (might jeopardize it somewhere else), but on the other hand transiting passengers don't really fancy changing not only aircraft, but also airports. So, won't work. Only real solution, if LHR wishes to preserve it's status as Europes premier transit airport, is to build a couple of runways double quick, build T5 (and probably also a T6), increase the apron and TWY areas to provide controllers with more options to manouver aircraft, increase the manpower required to turn-around aircraft in record time (someone mentioned Silverstone) and, equally important, extend the existing terminals so that passengers can actually find a place to SIT during the wait. Unrealistic, perhaps.

So build a new airport than can actually HANDLE the amount of traffic experienced, present and future, and dynamite LHR off the surface of the earth. That too is probably equally unrealistic. Too many NIMBY's in the world these days .....

10th Jul 2003, 00:47
Operated into T4 this morning as the BA296 from ORD. Wheels on the ground at just after 0600z and then a quick taxi to a remote stand (432) with a neat shimmy around a waiting KLM to reach chocks at 0615z. Hurrah - 10 minutes early and the guy with the actual chocks waiting on the stand.

Yep - you've guessed it, it was all going too well. 45 minutes later we are still disembarking pax as it appears there is only one bus which takes an age to shuttle the fares (40 at a time) to the gate. We are of course full plus wheelchairs that require the high lift etc etc.

Ah well - only another 5 years of this, if my blood pressure can stand it.

PS Big thanks to LHR/LGW ATC - still the best in my humble opinion......

Feather #3
10th Jul 2003, 15:48

One of our Captains effectively 'chartered' the crew bus last Christmas to get our pax to the terminal from a remote as those helpful folk on 131.9 said there would be NO bus for the job. Not a late bus, delayed bus, NO bus!!:mad:

And we pay these people handling fees!:confused:

G'day :cool:

Max Angle
10th Jul 2003, 18:45
T4 and all the other parts of LHR are bursting at the seams and the results are there for everyone to see on most mornings. Ah well, once bmi and all the other Star Alliance airlines have moved into T5 in a few years time BA will be able to run lots of their longhaul from T3 so the problem will be sorted!!

Doh, must have been dreaming, slumy old T1 for us I think.

10th Jul 2003, 19:26
I suspect that the problem might mutate but it will not go away. LHR 'works' only because of a remarkable crowd of human beings that are trying to run the place in a manner that rsembles an efficient international airport.

Almost all of the threads about LHR come back to BAA's doorstep. YES, BA might be the largest customer and YES BA are also cutting back on staff to a ridiculous degree but no company can hope to do well when they are renting facilities in a location that is badly run. It would be the same in a multi-tenanted tower block.

In due course something will go wrong and BAA will be at the heart of it.

Scottie Dog
11th Jul 2003, 19:49
Thought the following may be of interest:

"Subject: BA Winter Schedule

Another change for the winter 2003 season is that British Airways' flights from London Heathrow to Johannesburg and Tokyo will operate from Heathrow's Terminal 1 instead of Terminal 4 from October 26, 2003. Both these routes have a high number of transfer passengers, many of whom will no longer have to swap terminals at Heathrow for their connecting flights. This is the first phase of British Airways' flight switches between Heathrow terminals which will help make better use of the existing facilities prior to the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008. To support these additional longhaul services, a major programme of infrastructure improvements is taking place at Terminal 1 including new lounges and check-in facilities."


11th Jul 2003, 20:10
Yes, the so-called 'Project Iceberg'.

We can only hope that some short-hual routes will got from T1 to T4 in return, if not it'll be horrendous. Even if that is the case, it's going to increase towing movments putting more pressure on GMC.


12th Jul 2003, 16:29
Hello chaps,

Been reading with interest about all the probs you have at EGLL T4 with stands!!

I work at Gatwick and I've now come to the conclusion that the airport/apron authorities who decide on stand allocation have no idea what they are doing.

At Gatwick we frequently have aircraft which arrive (both long and short haul) and their stand is occupied or unavailable for some reason. However ,since we seem to have become somewhat quieter apres 9/11, we usually have a plethora of unnoccupied stands which they could use. (NOT only in the same terminal but often adjacent stands!! So the argument about customs, baggage handlers and ground crews etc goes out the window in my view!!)

This is a NIGHTMARE for us folks in the tower and all it takes is two or three a'c to have to "hold" and the apron becomes rapidly gridlocked!! Hence why you hear a rapidly harrassed GMC controller on the RT for the next while.

SO lads at heathrow my heart goes out to you but don;t be fooled into thinking that the BAA would do anything about it even if you had the stands to spare !!

13th Jul 2003, 01:36
If BA are moving a few Long Haul flights to T1 where are they going to find the space in the Terminal.
The departures area is packed most of the time so how will it cope when you add in a few 747-400s passenger loads.

BLK 33
14th Jul 2003, 04:35
Stu baby

"SO lads at heathrow my heart goes out to you but don;t be fooled into thinking that the BAA would do anything about it even if you had the stands to spare !!"

Allocation in both T4 ( and T1) isn't done by BAA, but by BA.

Which makes the whole thing even more bewildering at times.

15th Jul 2003, 03:34
Surely the greatest problem lies with BRITISH Airways ? Why in such an expansive and partly isolated territory is EVERYTHING focused on EGLL (London Heathrow) ? Why not spread the load over Manchester (or anywhere else in the north) Surely people from Birmingham would go north to fly on in order to avoid EGLL , or am I missing something here ? I cannot understand so called management , mumble , mumble , mumble.
That's my six euros' worth .....ARRRRGH.

Final 3 Greens
16th Jul 2003, 04:52
I was involved in a project to look at stand planning/management at LHR a couple of years ago.

Bottom line, there just is not enough physical space to easily cope with the peaks, especially during times of disruption.

Lets not slag off BA, BAA or anyone else.

Try overlaying a map of LAX or DFW onto LHR and see the difference in area.

I rode around the peri track of LAX - over 20 miles!

Everyone at LHR, controllers, pilots, planners and ops etc have my admiration for a job done exceedingly well under very difficult circumstances.

16th Jul 2003, 06:58
I agree, lack of physical space is the main problem, but surely there are people/organisations responsible for that?

BA for scheduling more flights than can reasonably use T4?
BAA for letting them?
Us (ATC) for (usually!) making it work?