Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five is a stunning achievement of design. Designed by Richard Rogers, it’s the first thing many international travelers see in the UK. It’s beautiful, it’s stunning, and it’s… apparently a massive annoyance to perform any basic repairs on, which is why the airport is hiring circus performers to do it.
To give you an idea of the severity of the problem, the terminal opened in 2008, and none of its lightbulbs have been replaced since. Furthermore, the design of the building makes logical, simple solutions impossible; cherry pickers and scissor lifts simply can’t go high enough, as the terminal ceiling is 120 feet up. Thus, send in the acrobats:
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… 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.
It turns out that wirewalkers are uniquely suited to this job, because it’s a lot easier to string a wire across a 120-foot tall span than it is to wheel in a cherry picker. They intend to replace all the bulbs with environmentally friendly LEDs that should last… five years.
Uh, maybe, Heathrow, you should look into bulbs that last a little longer? Just a thought.