Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Misc. Forums > Aviation History and Nostalgia
Reload this Page >

Heathrow - 2000 Years of History

Aviation History and Nostalgia Whether working in aviation, retired, wannabee or just plain fascinated this forum welcomes all with a love of flight.

Heathrow - 2000 Years of History

Old 22nd Apr 2011, 20:26
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
Heathrow - 2000 Years of History

I'm reading the book above which has some interesting information about the Heathrow area before the airport was built, as well as about the airport itself.

One thing I couldn't understand is why the first runway built was never actually used and the authorities seemed to be aware of the fact it wasn't needed but still spent 400,000 on it in 1944. This was the 'central' NW/SE aligned runway (15/33?) and would now be known as 15C/33C and now lies under the central terminal area.

It was all something to do with the pretence that Heathrow was for the RAF but was all along secretly planned to be London's new civil airport. Apparently BOAC subsequently complained that the runway was unsuitable for civil operation but I'm at a complete loss why this should be.
Does anyone know why this runway had to be built and why it wasn't suitable for civil operations? Presumably it was suitable for RAF use?
airsmiles is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2011, 08:03
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Manchester, UK
Age: 62
Posts: 332
I think it was something to do with the plans showing the then standard RAF wartime airfield triangular runway layout, to maintain the fiction that LHR was intended to be a new RAF transport aerodrome, hence all that wasted money (and 400,000 in 1944 would equate to vastly more in today's money of course). A very interesting book, "Heathrow, 2000 years of history," for a propliner enthusiast with some environmental leanings-myself.
Proplinerman is offline  
Old 23rd Apr 2011, 17:33
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Toulouse area, France
Age: 89
Posts: 437
Devil Triangular layout - tradition, m'lud

In the '40s, the triangular layout was "standard issue" design at the Ministry for Aeroplanes, because tailwheeled aircraft (and their pilots) preferred taking off and landing as nearly into wind as possible - a sensible policy, specially as British manufacturers and/or operators were to go on thinking in terms of "a little wheel at the back" (think Viking, Tudor and Hastings) for quite some time. The tricycle types of the era, like the DC-4 and Constellation, less sensitive to cross-winds, were probably not even considered, even though they were clearly "the wave of the future" - touch of NIH, or just ignorance ?
But who on earth was responsible for siting the terminals in the middle - apart from the wooden huts beside the A4 while the "magnificent" buildings were erected ...
Even though I was still in my teens at the time (but an ardent subscriber to aviation magazines for years) I thought then that the decision was "odd", but also realised that making Gatwick, with its train connection, the Airport for London would mean having a big civil aerodrome in SURREY would just "not be on" - better to disturb the proles in the far west of London ...

Last edited by Jig Peter; 23rd Apr 2011 at 18:19. Reason: add the "tubby DC-3" and last sentence
Jig Peter is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2011, 07:16
  #4 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
I understand about the standard RAF runway layout but I'm just not clear why that would be unsuited to civil aircraft operation. They're still perfectly usable runways so why did BOAC kick-up such a stink about it.

As for the central terminal layout, it is actually a very efficient design which other airports have used. It, in theory, means aircraft are much closer to the runways and have less distances to taxy from their parking stand. The problem is the original Heathrow design never envisaged the massive expansion of traffic over a long period of time, so the central area became rapidly space constricted. This isn't a problem in places like Dallas-Fort Worth where they left huge amounts of space in the central area for long-term development. Simply not possible in dear old blighty.
airsmiles is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2011, 12:50
  #5 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Cornwall UK
Age: 75
Posts: 501
I think BOAC were probably talking rubbish....however the need for ANY NW-SE runway is debatable....the wind doesn't blow that way very often at LHR! so why build 3? :-)
A central terminal between 2 parallel runways is a good layout...I think T4 would have gone where T5 is now but they couldn't get rid of the Perry Oaks Sewage plant at the time
A30yoyo is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2011, 21:57
  #6 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
Having taken many a BA flight from T4 in the past, I think having a terminal outside of the two runways is counter-productive from an operational point of view. Nearly every time I flew from/to T4 there were lengthy delays if using 27R/10R then having to cross the active 27L/09R.
airsmiles is offline  
Old 24th Apr 2011, 23:30
  #7 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Cornwall UK
Age: 75
Posts: 501
The 3rd runway up at Sipson would have been especially awkward for T4
A30yoyo is offline  
Old 25th Apr 2011, 08:10
  #8 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
Yes, they should have built T4 on the north side by demolishing something else? Is there any space left (I daren't say why not convert Waterside!). Or perhaps moving out some of the vast maintenance hangers and building a terminal between 27L and 27R.

Failing that, I'll stir the pot good and proper by suggesting building the 3rd runway south of T4. Fill in a few reservoirs and we could have our very own "Stainesbaan" to rival Schipol.

Sorry - feeling a bit mischievous today.
airsmiles is offline  
Old 24th Sep 2012, 09:41
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Northampton
Posts: 19
One thing I couldn't understand is why the first runway built was never actually used and the authorities seemed to be aware of the fact it wasn't needed but still spent 400,000 on it in 1944. This was the 'central' NW/SE aligned runway (15/33?) and would now be known as 15C/33C and now lies under the central terminal area.
I think that runway shows up on an old map from 1948 I found on Wiki.



There is also some interesting information on the history of the area on this page:

Wind Sock is offline  
Old 24th Sep 2012, 10:43
  #10 (permalink)  

Gentleman Aviator
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Teetering Towers - somewhere in the Shires
Age: 70
Posts: 3,385
I also seem to recall seeing a plan - clearly never adopted - of runways at Heathrow which were (about 6?) as tangents to a sort of circular central taxiway, so each of the 3 directions had 2 runways, one starting, and one finishing at the central circle.

Very easy to draw on a beer mat, rather more difficult to describe - as you can see from the above!

Is this just a senior moment of "remembering with clarity something that never happened!", or does anyone else recall something similar .......
teeteringhead is offline  
Old 24th Sep 2012, 15:52
  #11 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
Yes, I've seen a planned layout which I think had another Star of David runway pattern north of the initial runway pattern. Quite why they thought they needed all of those runways is completely beyond me. It's not as if there were many aircraft movements in the first few decades of Heathrow (or LAP as it was).
airsmiles is offline  
Old 24th Sep 2012, 17:41
  #12 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reading, UK
Posts: 10,894
Yes, I've seen a planned layout which I think had another Star of David runway pattern north of the initial runway pattern. Quite why they thought they needed all of those runways is completely beyond me.
Are you thinking of the 9-runway plan (the Star of David south of the A4, plus 3 in a triangle to the north) ?

I've never seen a plan for 12 runways, that really would be OTT. What's your source, if you don't mind me asking ?
DaveReidUK is offline  
Old 25th Sep 2012, 01:19
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 254
Heathrow 2000 years ago......

At approximately the location of the current T3 site, there was a rock-pit quarry where stones for the region were mined.

Circa 1850 years ago a tribe moved just to the east of the pit and immediately began to complain about the noise from the pit*. Alleged problems were extensive cracking in their caves and interference with their smoke signals.

English history is fascinating.

Ref: "Whining Bastards throughout History" Allen & Unwin 1978
A. Le Rhone is offline  
Old 25th Sep 2012, 15:27
  #14 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: UK, sometimes USA
Posts: 400
Yes, I think it must have been the 9 runway plan. Still 9 is quite a lot for any airport!

Same applies : what on earth were they thinking they'd need 9 for?
airsmiles is offline  
Old 25th Sep 2012, 16:32
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reading, UK
Posts: 10,894
Same applies : what on earth were they thinking they'd need 9 for?
To improve connectivity to emerging markets, of course !
DaveReidUK is offline  
Old 28th Sep 2012, 14:26
  #16 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Lancing, Sussex
Age: 88
Posts: 255
Heathrow history

Also remember that Gatwick was originally built as an alternative to Heathrow, because it had better weather.
It was never envisaged that both would be full,
I can remember visiting the old grass Gatwick just after the war.
Exnomad is offline  
Old 28th Sep 2012, 17:44
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: South of the M4
Posts: 1,526
Heathrow Runways

I took this photo of Heathrow looking east in June 1956. A collection of runways is shown.



My album also contains an earlier photo (1950?), but I don't know its provenance. Looks very similar to the layout shown in the 1948 Ordnace Survey map linked in Wind Sock's post #9 above.


Last edited by Warmtoast; 28th Sep 2012 at 17:45.
Warmtoast is offline  
Old 29th Sep 2012, 12:52
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Northampton
Posts: 19
Brilliant photos from the historic point of view.

A pity that big puff of cloud in the first photo got in the way of Heston Aerodrome.

It would go to show just how close together the two aerodromes were and why it was that Heston just had to shut shop.
Wind Sock is offline  
Old 30th Sep 2012, 22:30
  #19 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Cornwall UK
Age: 75
Posts: 501
I think about 2/3 of Heston Aerodrome is peeking out from under the big cloud at about 7 and 8 o'clock
A30yoyo is offline  
Old 1st Oct 2012, 05:32
  #20 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Fragrant Harbour
Posts: 4,681
Rather than why build that seventh runway, perhaps the question should be why build a completely new airport from scratch when many current airfields were being decommissioned and which could easily be adapted.

Perhaps the answer is that large civil engineering projects were thought to be the way out of the recession caused by the end of the war. America had the same idea with the construction of the Hoover dam.
Dan Winterland is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.