Pilot reports ‘near-miss with UFO’ flying into Heathrow

A pilot of a passenger jet has reported a near miss incident when a ‘cigar/rugby ball-shaped UFO’ passed within a few feet of his aircraft while it was flying into Heathrow Airport, The Telegraph has reported.

The captain of the A320 Airbus told British aviation authorities that he was certain that the object was going to crash into his aircraft and ducked as it headed towards him. The incident occurred while the plane was cruising at 34,000ft, around 32km west of the airport, over the Berkshire countryside.

The captain spotted the bright silver, ‘metallic’ object travelling towards the jet out of a left hand side, cockpit window, apparently heading directly for it. However, when he checked the aircraft’s instruments and contacted air traffic controllers to report the incident there was no sign of the mystery craft.

Without naming the airline or flight, a report into the incident said: He (the pilot) was under the apprehension that they were on collision course with no time to react. His immediate reaction was to duck to the right and reach over to alert the FO (First Officer); there was no time to talk to alert him.’

It added: ‘The Captain was fully expecting to experience some kind of impact with a conflicting aircraft.’

The incident was investigated by the UK Airprox Board, which studies ‘near misses’ involving aircraft in British airspace. The investigation was unable to establish any earthly identity for the mysterious craft. It ruled out meteorological balloons, after checking that none were released in the vicinity. Military radar operators were also contacted but were unable to trace the reported object.

The Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk in December 2009, along with its hotline for reporting such sightings.

Following this, the Civil Aviation Authority decided that it would continue to look into such reports from aircrew and air traffic controllers, because they could have implications for ‘flight safety’.

West London voters ‘more likely’ to choose MP who backs Heathrow expansion

Residents of West London are reportedly more likely to vote for their MP if they support the Heathrow expansion than if they oppose a third runway, London Heathrow has said, citing new research from independent polling company Populus.

The research suggests that against political assumption, supporting a third runway at Heathrow could actually be a vote winner for local MPs. About 48 percent of residents said they supported expanding Heathrow, while 36 percent were opposed.

The research is important as it covers a statistically representative sample of those who will be most affected by the Heathrow expansion, which could be traditionally expected to be opposed to growth.

The research confirms that a silent majority of people in local boroughs support London Heathrow and its plans for a third runway. Only one constituency in the local area – Richmond Park – had more residents who opposed expansion than supported it, all other areas reportedly saw many more people supporting than opposing a third runway.

While 57 percent of voters polled said they feel positive towards Heathrow, 35 percent felt neutral and just seven percent felt negative towards the airport.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said: ‘A third runway at Heathrow has traditionally been seen as the best option for the UK but politically difficult in West London. This research suggests that the political costs of supporting a third runway at Heathrow have been vastly overstated.

‘Far from being politically impossible, there is widespread local support for Heathrow. Many more people around Heathrow support a third runway than oppose it. More than 100,000 jobs depend on Heathrow and people want to see the airport flourish, not decline or close as the Mayor proposes.’

Populus interviewed a representative sample of 7,000 people by telephone in the Hounslow, Ealing, Richmond, Spelthorne, and Windsor constituencies and the London Borough of Hillingdon in November.

Heathrow predicts British Christmas to be enjoyed across the world

Heathrow Airport has said that the trappings of a traditional British Christmas will be enjoyed across the world this festive season.

Britain’s biggest transport interchange is expecting a record year for sales of popular UK products, including English tea, Scottish salmon and single malt whisky. During November and December, international visitors departing from Heathrow purchase more than 918 tonnes of British products to bring a touch of Great British style to their festivities.

According to Dana Jaber, a personal shopper at Heathrow, the type of items passengers are looking for have changed significantly in the last five years. While English tea sold at Heathrow is popular with Chinese passengers, Turkish and Japanese passengers are the key buyers of Scottish Malt Whisky, and Middle Eastern passengers are the biggest customers for sealed Scottish salmon. The most popular British brands include Mulberry and Jo Malone.

Dana Jaber said: ‘More than 5.8 million travellers will pass through Heathrow this Christmas, searching for a little piece of Britain to take home. Thanks to the Royal Wedding, the Olympics and more recently the birth of Prince George, the desirability of British brands has never been higher. Visitors are keen to take home a little piece of the UK for their own Christmas celebrations.

‘The Asian market – including mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore – like the romance and heritage of a traditional British Christmas, and tend to go for items that allow them to recreate British traditions at home,’ she added.

Heathrow’s Personal Shopping service is open to all passengers and no minimum spend is required. Home delivery is available to those travelling within the UK or the EU, and is free when passengers spend £300 or more at Heathrow and use a Heathrow Rewards card. For passengers without a Heathrow Rewards card the service is free, subject to a minimum purchase of £500.00.

Busy travellers can also choose and order from a wide range of products available at the airport by using the free online service, Heathrow Boutique, to reserve and collect items. The web address iswww.heathrow.com/boutique.

London Heathrow to offer passengers a magical Christmas experience

Passengers at London Heathrow will be treated to a magical departure this Christmas, as Heathrow partners with ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’.

This December, The Snowman and The Snowdog characters will be around the airport to enhance the journey experience, offering fun and entertainment to children.

Passengers, particularly those travelling with families, will be able to start their holiday journey with:

Christmas themed security lanes just for families.

Visits by Santa and his elves.

Play areas for children featuring ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’ characters, storytelling and craft sessions.

And ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’ activity packs in restaurants to keep children entertained during meal time.

Parents can buy baby food and milk, and free personal shoppers can organise passengers’ Christmas shopping at the airport, both through www.heathrow.com/boutique.

Additionally, ‘kids eat free’ offers will be available at dedicated restaurants across Heathrow Terminals, including Est Cafe in Terminal 1, Oriel and Rhubarb in Terminal 3, Dining Street in Terminal 4 and Huxleys in Terminal 5.

Passengers departing from Terminal 5 at 11am on December 12 will also be treated to a special screening of the ‘The Snowman and The Snowdog’ at check-in, while the London Philharmonic Orchestra performs the theme song from the film, ‘Light the Night’.

Maria Lourenco, a Heathrow personal shopper, said: ‘Christmas at Heathrow is a magical time as our passengers set off on their most important journey of the year to see loved ones. The family lanes are always very popular at Heathrow and many customers will be keen to do their Christmas shopping when they so we have been working hard to make sure we are ready to welcome everyone.’

In December, Heathrow expects 5.7 million passengers to travel through the airport, 2.7 million arrivals and 3 million departures. Friday, December 20, is set to be Heathrow’s busiest getaway day, with over 115,000 passengers expected to depart on that day alone.

Heathrow wins four awards at IGAA, awarded ‘Champion of Champions’

Heathrow has won four categories at the International Green Apple Awards (IGAA) for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development.

The judging committee has further recognised the airport’s combined achievements in environmental sustainability, naming the UK’s hub airport as ‘Champion of Champions’. Run by The Green Organisation, the awards are recognised internationally for identifying and promoting best practice in the field of sustainability.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s sustainability director, said: ‘We are committed to running Heathrow responsibly and delighted to have been recognised for our achievements so far. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, employees and passengers to continue to improve and build on this success.’

Heathrow was recognised and awarded Gold for its work on innovative ‘Pods’, carbon reduction, renewable energy and sustainable transport.

Heathrow Pods is an innovative transport system. The Pods are low energy, driverless vehicles that carry up to four passengers and their luggage from the business car park to Terminal 5. Heathrow Pods provide a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions over buses, and 70 percent over cars. Since they launched two years ago, the 21 pods have operated one million driverless miles.

Carbon Reduction – Over the past four years, Heathrow has introduced several new measures and technologies, such as LED lighting, and invested in Energy Demand Management (EDM) projects to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. Heathrow also works with the UK aviation industry through Sustainable Aviation to influence the development and implementation of a Departures Code of Practice to reduce carbon emissions on the ground.

Heathrow’s Renewable Energy Centre – The GBP34m Heathrow Energy Centre facility will provide renewable heat and power to serve new and existing airport infrastructure, integrating biomass-fuelled combined Heat and Power technology into the day-to-day operation. At full load, the Heathrow Energy Centre will offset around 40,000MWh/year of gas and 12,000MWh/year of electricity, saving around 13,000 tonnes of CO2/year  around 5 percent of Heathrow’s current annual carbon emissions, and equivalent to the annual emissions of 6,500 passenger cars.

Sustainable travel – Heathrow says that it is committed to developing and delivering sustainable travel options and operates a major car share scheme, the only airport cycle hub in the UK and the only free travel zone in the UK. The Heathrow Commuter team aims to bring in a major behavioural change, ensuring that no more than 65 percent of Heathrow staff commutes daily in a single-occupied car by the end of 2013.

Heathrow to fund soundproof outdoor learning buildings

Heathrow has announced a pioneering ‘adobe’ buildings scheme, a world first for airports.

The airport will provide 21 local schools with an amount of £85,000 each, a total of nearly £1.8 million, to install an ‘adobe’ building in their premises. The scheme is part of Heathrow’s pledge to explore innovative solutions for reducing the impact of aircraft noise on local communities.

The only known airport in the world to support local schools, Heathrow’s move comes after the completion of successful adobe building pilot in Hounslow Heath Infant School. Children use the building during playtime and lunch breaks, and it supports the school’s curriculum by providing opportunities for outdoor learning without interruption from aircraft.

An invention of Californian architect, Nader Khalili, adobe buildings are specially designed eco-friendly domes made from long tubes of soil. The innovative shape and design – which can seat up to thirty pupils – offers noise respite from overhead aircraft, while retaining a feeling of being outside.

Kathryn Harper-Quinn, head teacher from Hounslow Heath Infant School said: ‘At Hounslow Heath Infant School we are delighted with the impact our wonderful adobe buildings have had on our teaching. Children and staff can all enjoy and benefit from carefully planned experiences outdoors without the disruption from aircraft noise. We welcome Heathrow’s Adobe Policy as a wonderful opportunity for schools to enhance outdoor learning for their pupils being educated in the communities around Heathrow Airport.’

Matt Gorman, sustainability director, said: ‘We know that aircraft noise has an impact on local communities. This new and innovative scheme has already proved a great success in providing pupils with noise respite and we hope all 21 schools will enjoy the buildings as much as Hounslow Heath has.’

Heathrow will fully fund the scheme across all schools that have qualified for sound insulation and ventilation through the Community Buildings Noise Insulation Scheme. The scheme is designed to provide acoustic insulation to noise sensitive buildings in the community.

Since 2005, Heathrow has provided noise insulation for schools to ensure that indoor lessons continue uninterrupted by aircraft noise.

The UK hub has recently published ‘a quieter Heathrow’ report, which sets out Heathrow’s commitments to reducing aircraft noise while safeguarding the hub’s connectivity. The report suggests the key focus areas for tackling aircraft noise: quieter planes, quieter operating procedures, noise mitigation and land-use planning, operating restrictions and working with local communities.

Heathrow supports British Legion’s poppy appeal

London Heathrow has pledged its support for The Royal British Legion by decorating its airfield vehicles with poppies.

Poppy flowers have been placed on 200 vehicles, from safety vehicles, tugs and fire engines, to mark its support for the Legion’s annual poppy appeal – the first time a charity image has been placed on Heathrow’s official vehicles.

Starting from London Poppy day (November 7) to Armistice Day (November 11), aircraft at the UK’s hub will be greeted by a host activities, donations and performances reminding passengers to donate to the great British cause.

Over one million people are expected to pass through Heathrow during the five days. The airport will donate £1 for every car parking booking made, Heathrow Express will offer free travel to the military, coin collectors will be at all terminals and passengers will be treated to a host of musical performances and celebrations from the British military services including pipers and Scottish dancers.

Paul Farmer, a Security Duty Manager who previously served as an RAF Policeman, said: “I am delighted to be able to show support for The Royal British Legion. Serving in the Armed Forces gave me many of the skills I still use at Heathrow today and I am so grateful for their help when I made the transition into work.”

Susan Goldsmith, Operations Director at Terminal 5, said: “We are delighted to be supporting The Royal British Legion with their poppy appeal campaign. Many of our passengers and employees have served in countries across the globe and we know this is a cause that is very close to their hearts.”

Every poppy helps to raise the £1.6 million spent weekly by the Legion to deliver support and advice to the Armed Forced community.

London Heathrow’s long association with the military began during World War II when the government claimed land in and around the ancient agricultural village of Heath Row as a base for long-range troop-carrying aircraft bound for the Far East. Many employees have also served with the Armed Forces.

The UK’s leading Armed Forces charity, the British Legion provides wide ranging support to all members of the British Armed Forces, past and present and their families, including crisis grants, family breaks, benefits and money advice and when situation warrants, inquest advice.

Heathrow explores biodiversity at the airport

London Heathrow has completed a new survey of the unusual inhabitants that reside in and around the airport’s 30-hectare biodiversity site.

This is the first time the airport has surveyed the spiders and beetles that make their home at the UK’s hub airport. Located on the Thames Terrace Gravels and covering an area of over 1,200 hectares, including grassland, other landscaped areas and a variety of natural habitats, Heathrow Airport is home to a multitude of rare and macabre species of bats, spiders and insects.

The study was intended to increase Heathrow’s understanding of the fauna in and around the airfield to help effective management and protection of the species found. It discovered 129 species of spider, 304 species of beetles. There are currently five species of bat; Soprano Pipistrelle, Common Pipistrelle, Nathusius’ Pipistrelle, Noctule and Serotine, the last two being new visitors to Heathrow.

Two spiders were also found for the first time in Middlesex: Mermessus trilobatus is a small Linyphiid recorded in UK for the first time early in 2013. Xysticus acerbus is a scarce crab spider, not previously recorded in the London area.

Edward Milner, an arachnologist studied and counted new species of spiders in the Colne Valley area around Heathrow. Matt Smith, an entomologist, looked at several groups of insects across the airport, principally at the aculeate hymenoptera – bees, wasps and ants. Adam Cheeseman surveyed the bat boxes around the airport for new inhabitants.

The report is part of Heathrow’s pledge to help run the airport responsibly. This includes ensuring the protection of wildlife and species in and around the airport.

Heathrow Airport retained the Biodiversity Benchmark Award for a third year in a row in 2012. The award from The Wildlife Trust recognises continued biodiversity improvement, and Heathrow remains the only airport to have reached the standard.

Airport staff decides for strike action in pay dispute

The check-in staff and baggage handlers at the UK’s four busiest airports have voted for strike action in a dispute over pay, Travel Weekly has reported.

Staff and workers at the ground handling company, Swissport, based at Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted, have voted in favour of strike action. A poll by Unite union members has seen 94 percent voting in favour of strike action, based on a turnout of 50.5 percent.

Following the vote, the company has called for an urgent meeting with the Unite union, which is taking place today.

Unite national officer, Oliver Richardson, said: ‘In the light of this overwhelming mandate for action, Swissport has requested talks which we are happy to attend so we can try to resolve this matter.

‘The dispute centres on the company’s decision to freeze workers pay for eighteen months, from April 2012 through to October 2013, followed by a below-inflation increase of just 2.5 percent.

‘Our members are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living,’ he said, adding that the union believes Swissport is failing to recognise the contribution that its staff members are making to the success of the company.

‘We hope that over the coming days we will be able to thrash out a deal with the company but this will depend on whether the company is prepared to move on from its current position on pay,’ said Richardson.

Swissport International Limited provides ground services for around 118 million passengers and handles 3.5 million tons of cargo a year on behalf of some 650 client-companies in the aviation sector. With a workforce of around 40,000 personnel, Swissport is active at 181 stations in 37 countries across five continents.

In the UK, Swissport’s clients include Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Thomson at Stansted; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates at Manchester; Monarch, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Virgin and British Airways at Gatwick and Virgin at Heathrow.

Closure of Heathrow likely to risk 230,000 jobs

A government decision to close Heathrow and to build a new hub airport would put nearly 230,000 jobs at risk in the Thames Valley, The Financial Times has reported, citing a separate study.

Economic consultancy, Regeneris, has studied the regional effect of three main airport options under consideration: an extended Heathrow; a ‘do-nothing’ scenario; and a new hub to the east or northeast of London, with the closure of Heathrow.

If Heathrow were closed, ‘in the long run, of the order of 170,000 to 230,000 jobs could be at risk in the area due to their links to and use of Heathrow for travel.’ This represents 7 to 9.5 percent of jobs in the region; and one in every 20 jobs in the area is attributable to the activities at the west London airport, the study said.

Commissioned by West London Business in partnership with four local enterprises, namely Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, Enterprise M3, Oxfordshire and Thames Valley Berkshire, the study focused on one of the UK’s most dominant economic areas, the ‘western wedge’ along the M4 motorway from the west London suburbs to Oxford, Newbury, Guildford and Basingstoke. With a range of IT, telecommunications, media and scientific research companies, the region accounts for GBP137bn in gross value added, or 10 percent of the UK’s total.

One of the attractions of the western wedge for companies was its proximity to the UK’s hub airport. Stephen Nicol, Regeneris managing director, said. ‘Heathrow airport is an enormously important driver of the area’s economy,’ he added.

The study analysed the likely situation in 2030, when the airport development should be completed, and also in 2040, when the effects of the development would be ‘fully worked through.’

Meanwhile, if the government goes ahead with Heathrow expansion plans, extra activity will create 20,000 new jobs by 2040 and raise gross value added by about £3 billion, the study said. Extra benefits of £230 million to GBP300 million would ensue from improved connectivity in the area.

However London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, has opposed Heathrow expansion, citing catastrophic effects on the environment of west London. He has proposed an estuary hub or expansion of Stansted in Essex, claiming that once closed, Heathrow could be converted into a thriving London borough with homes for 250,000 people.

Sir Howard Davies, who chairs a commission on airport capacity, is considering the proposals and is expected to publish an interim report in December.