Showing posts with label ACO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ACO. Show all posts

18 May, 2024

ACO’s bespoke Heathrow escape hatch is a runway success

When an outdoor emergency escape hatch needed replacing at Heathrow Airport, it was vital the solution could be installed quickly to minimise disruptions to air traffic as much as possible. With no escaping the difficulties inherent to projects carried out at the world’s fourth busiest airport, the contractors reached out to ACO to help them hatch a plan.

Time for an upgrade

The escape hatch in question served a plant room below the south runway and, as the one previously in place was reaching the end of its useable life, it needed updating. Intended for emergency use should there be a serious problem in the plant room, the existing hatch featured a grill near ground level which left the inside of the plant room vulnerable to frequent rainwater ingress. Due in large part to the age and outdoor location of the site, the previous hatch had become difficult to open so something more useable was required.

Safety needed to be front of mind – the new hatch needed to be openable with one hand and allow someone on the inside to override the outside locking system so that in emergency situations workers could escape quickly. These operational requirements had to be tempered with the fact that airports are high-security environments so any risk of unauthorised entry via the hatch had to be reduced to practically zero.

The escape hatch installation was contracted to Design Build International (DBI) and headed up by Construction Manager Kelvin Sumner. DBI had just four nights to break out the existing escape hatch, install reinforcements, pour concrete, and install the new hatch.

Flight path pressure

Working at an airport meant there were several constraints specific to the site with security and safety requirements meaning that transport to and from the site took multiple layers of approvals and permits. This restriction meant planning was vital because a forgotten tool or unexpected change would mean having to wait until a member of security was available before making the round-trip to pick up any additional items.

Most of the installation work had to happen at night to avoid interrupting aeroplane landings and take-offs. This also meant that DBI had to be very strict about leaving the site by 4:30am each day.