A United Airlines service from Chicago landing early on the morning of June 4 will be the first flight to use London Heathrow Airport’s new Terminal 2.
United Airlines will be alone for two weeks as the first user of the new Terminal 2 main building ‒ which is informally called Terminal 2A by London Heathrow Airport’s operator, because the Terminal 2B midfield satellite building is already in use.
Designed to handle 20 million passengers a year, the new Terminal 2A – officially to be known as ‘Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal’ – will initially handle 25 airlines. These will include all 22 Star Alliance member carriers serving Heathrow as of June, plus Aer Lingus, Lufthansa subsidiary Germanwings and UK domestic carrier Virgin Atlantic Little Red.
Plans are also afoot for Air India to move from Terminal 3 to the new Terminal 2 when it becomes a Star Alliance member. Its induction into the alliance is currently planned for 2015.
By June, the Star Alliance members serving Heathrow – one member down from Star’s peak Heathrow presence to date of 23 carriers, because TAM Airlines is leaving Star Alliance to join oneworld – will be serving 43 destinations.
Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal is 210,000 square meters (2.6 million square feet) in area, has two levels (one for departures and one for arrivals) and has 10 gates, two of which will be Airbus A380-capable. (Star Alliance members Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International operate A380s to Heathrow.)
Two gates will also be swing gates and these will effectively increase the terminal’s capacity to 12 gates, says Luis Vidal, the terminal’s architect. Unlike Heathrow’s older terminals, whose piers created cul-de-sacs in which aircraft could easily get blocked off by other aircraft pushing back or taxiing, Terminal 2 is designed so its gates give direct access to Heathrow’s taxiways.
Some 24,000 people working for 160 organizations and companies will be employed in the new Terminal 2. Another 35,000 have worked on its construction over the life of the project, according to Heathrow Airport Limited, the airport’s operator.
The new Terminal 2 will be connected by a tunnel to the existing, recently built Terminal 2B satellite building to the east. This is 522 meters (1,713 feet) in length, has 14 gates (most of which are for A380s or other large aircraft) and can handle 10 million of the 20 million passengers a year expected to pass through the main Terminal 2 building.
On April 23, six weeks before the new, £2.5 billion ($4.1 billion) terminal opens for commercial operations, a massive new sculpture called ‘Slipstream’ will be unveiled publicly. ‘Slipstream’ is the creation of artist Richard Wilson RA (along with teams of fabricators and engineers) and was curated by Mark Davy, founder of UK public arts agency Futurecity.
‘Slipstream’ is built into four of the 11 columns supporting the roof of the covered court between the terminal’s 1,340-space car park and the north façade of the terminal itself.
Wilson’s design for the huge structure was inspired by the tumbling, three-dimensional path of champion air-race pilot Paul Bonhomme’s Zlivko Edge 540 air-race aircraft performing an aerobatic display.
According to Wilson, ‘Slipstream’ is the longest sculpture in Europe at 78 meters (just under 256 feet) and it weighs 77 tonnes (84.9 tons). It is made from 23 giant sections all shipped separately by truck on low-loaders to Heathrow from the port city of Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire, where each section was made by adding layers of steel and aluminum on to plywood frames.
Each truck used a surface-level access road to cross Heathrow’s north runway late at night (the airport being closed for its nightly curfew) to deliver its section of sculpture. The was because the main access road to Heathrow’s central terminals 2 and 3 goes under a runway through a tunnel, and the tunnel ceiling was too low for the trucks pulling the sculpture sections to pass through, says Wilson.
After Wilson completed the sculpture, Bonhomme, the owner and race pilot of Team Bonhomme, which has won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship twice, reproduced as nearly as possible in the air in his Zlivko Edge 540 the three-dimensional flight path described by ‘Slipstream’. His flight was video-recorded and likely will be seen eventually by many thousands of members of the public and passengers of airlines using Terminal 2.
Mindful of the difficulties that beset Heathrow’s Terminal 5 when it opened, Heathrow Airport Limited is opening the new Terminal 2 gradually and only after the terminal has undergone 182 operational trials involving 14,000 people. Some trials will involve more than 3,200 people at a time.
Christian Klick, vice president corporate for Star Alliance, says the new Terminal 2 will operate at only 10 per cent of its capacity during its first three weeks in service. Its first airline customer will be United Airlines from June 4. Fellow Star Alliance members Air Canada, Air China and ANA will join United there on June 18.