Thursday, 27 November 2003


Primitive navigation

The story as I first heard it (another telling is here) goes something like this:

To the west of London are two airports: Heathrow and Northwood. Their runways are parallel, and a little way out under the flight path of each runway stands a pair of gasometers that pilots use to line up their approach.

One night though, the pilot of a jumbo jet mistook Ruislip's gasometer for Heathrow's, and attempted to land on the much shorter civilian runway.

To avoid a repeat occurrence, the word 'NO' has been painted on the Northwood gasometer so that pilots know they should re-check their approach.

It's a cute story. I heard it many years ago and always put it down as urban legend. I was a little surprised then, when yesterday heading west out of London I saw a gasometer to the side of the railway freshly tagged with the instruction '← LH'.

Is there actually some truth to the legend, or did someone appreciate the story so much they decided to create evidence on the ground?

Next time I'm out that way I'll try to get a photograph.

For the non-Brits out there, a gasometer is a large structure we use to store gas in. (No, not gasoline; natural gas.) It seems there's a real art to making one look attractive.

Posted by pab at 13:18