Thousands Heathrow of T5 high ceiling light bulbs to be replaced by high-wire artists – as no records kept of agreement on how to maintain them
Date added: November 25, 2013
Heathrow is calling in a team of high-wire artists to replace thousands of out-of-reach light bulbs at Terminal 5. The departure concourse has got progressively darker as bulb after bulb has failed, till now some 60% are blown. No bulbs have been replaced over 5 years, as no safe and effective means had been found of doing so. Now a specialist company using staff hanging off ropes will change all the bulbs for LEDs that should last at least 5 years, over some 4 months. It may cost several million pounds. T5 has one of the world’s largest controlled-lighting system, with 120,000 light fittings and 2,600 sensors designed to switch off lights when no motion is detected. Heathrow Airport Holdings confirmed that it was taking responsibility for changing the bulbs. All minutes and information relating to discussion with the architects, RSHP, some 8 years ago about the maintenance of the lights had been lost. No record remains of what was agreed then. “No-one can remember how they were supposed to change light bulbs and the manufacturer’s instruction book/ facilities management manual has been lost………” The architects said the number of bulbs to be changed is more like 1,000 rather than 120,000.
Heathrow Airport is calling in a team of high-wire artists to replace tens of thousands of out-of-reach light bulbs at Terminal 5.
The departures concourse of the futuristic terminal has grown steadily darker since it opened in 2008 as maintenance staff are unable to reach blown bulbs fitted in the high ceiling of the departures concourse.
News website Exaro obtained a copy of an e-mail sent to staff by a senior manager confirming none has been replaced in more than five years.
Vicki O’Brien, head of Heathrow customer service at British Airways, sent an email to staff to say that all the light bulbs are to be changed by high-wire artists.
The project to change the light bulbs will last nearly four months, according to her e-mail. Sources estimated that it will cost several millions pounds.
She wrote: “Since T5 was opened there have always been challenges for Heathrow with replacing blown light bulbs. Various things have been investigated in the past five years (eg gondolas and high-level cherry pickers), but for a number of reasons, none of these was practical or safe.
“The good news is that Heathrow has now identified a safe and robust way to replace all of the light bulbs, and this is high-level rope work carried out by a specialist company.”
The terminal houses the world’s largest controlled-lighting system, with 120,000 light fittings and 2,600 sensors designed to switch off lights when no motion is detected. The aim is to replace bulbs with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that are expected to last at least five years.
One source said: “Five years on, and they have not been able to change a single light bulb. It is one of the few jobs that can be done without the use of a qualified electrician, and they are going to have to rely on a team from Cirque du Soleil.”
A Heathrow spokesman told Exaro: “The current lighting on the Terminal 5 concourse is being replaced with environmentally friendly LED bulbs that will last for up to five years. Contingency lighting has been used on the concourse while a viable and safe solution of replacing the lights was being agreed.”
Heathrow will be hiring a team of high wire walkers to change the light bulbs that sit 120 feet-high along the ceiling of Terminal Five, after complaints from passengers.
The major bulb replacement task is expected to take nearly four months and cost several million pounds, according to an email sent to staff from Vicki O’Brien, head of Heathrow customer service at British Airways, the news website Exaro reports.
Sixty per cent of the 120,000 light bulbs at Terminal Five have blown yet not a single one has been changed since 2008, faced with “no viable way to replace them”, according to O’Brien.
Various ways of replacing them have been investigated, including gondolas and high-level cherry pickers, none of which were deemed “practical or safe”.
Following months of discussion, the airport has finally found a “safe and robust way to replace all of the light bulbs” using ‘Cirque du Soleil-style’ high-level rope work done by a specialist company.
The airport plans to re-lamp the entire ceiling of the departures concourse with environmentally-friendly LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs that will last up to five years, according to a spokesman for Heathrow.
“Contingency lighting has been used on the concourse while a viable and safe solution of replacing the lights was being agreed,” he said.
The airport is also planning to replace the terminal’s “task lights”, following complaints from staff saying the work lights are not bright enough for viewing documents on their desks.
Heathrow’s Terminal Five currently houses the world’s largest controlled-lighting system, featuring 2,600 sensors designed to automatically switch off when no motion is detected.
Terminal Five’s opening in 2008 was overshadowed by baggage check-in problems, with 34 flights cancelled.
“….However, the practice said the need for high-wire specialists to replace downlights was a maintenance issue and not a design flaw: ‘The airport were presented with a number of options, which were discussed with them and their maintenance team, and they chose this design.’
A RSHP spokesman said the practice had been in discussion with the airport’s ‘world class maintenance team’ for many years leading up to the terminal’s opening in 2008 and both sides had always been aware of the issue.
The airport’s owners, Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH) confirmed that it was taking responsibility for changing the bulbs but an HAH spokesman claimed all minutes and information relating to discussion with RSHP about the maintenance of the lights had been lost.
‘It was seven or eight years ago that this decision was made and there is no information as to what was agreed at that time,’ said the spokesman.
RSHP also strongly rejected claims in The Daily Mail that 120,000 downlighter bulbs would need to be changed at a height of 40m. ‘Their number is completely fabricated; it is nothing like that and more like under a 1,000 in the roof,’ said the spokesman.”
I guess rapid turnover of personnel means the loss of corporate memory ; no-one can remember how they were supposed to change light bulbs and the manufacturer’s instruction book/ facilities management manual has been lost………