London Heathrow airport's new control tower will go fully operational not long after midnight on Saturday 21 April, according to UK air traffic services provider NATS, which has the airport air traffic control contract at airport owner BAA's busiest airports.

NATS says it will prepare Heathrow, the world's most intensively used airport, for the operational opening of the new Terminal 5 next March.

The old tower, opened in 1955, stands on the geographical centre of the Airport's current operational area, but will be off-centre after the opening of Terminal 5.

The new 87-metre landmark tower is at the new heart of the airfield, says NATS, and gives the control team an unobstructed 360deg view of airport movements.

heathrow atc tower

Brandon Chapman, airports business director of NATS, said: "The new tower is a major change in the way we work and a fantastic facility."

The switchover from the old to the new towers will take place at 02:00 Saturday morning, the quietest period in the week, to avoid any service interruption, but NATS warns some delays may occur in the first few days as the flow rate is being controlled to give the controllers time to adapt to the new systems and the new view of the airfield.

heathrow atc tower interior