Heathrow airport, the busiest two-runway airport in the world, was positioned just under thirty eight kilometers west of London at -.4543 degrees longitude. The Air Traffic Control tower (ATC) stood 89 meters high, with the control room just below that at roughly 85 meters providing the operators a commanding 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside including a stunning panorama of the London skyline.
Airport administrators enforced an East to West take-off and landing pattern due to the prevailing winds and, with the continuous load of traffic, employed four separate arrival holding stacks: Lambourne to the northeast of London, Biggin to the southeast, Bovingdon to the northwest, and the Ockham Stack to the southwest, essentially putting the Old City at the center of a four-leaf clover with Heathrow being the stem to the west of all four stacks.
Heathrow handled more than 1300 flights a day. At any given moment, each of the four stacks might have six to twelve aircraft in its holding pattern with departing flights taking to the air from the far west side of the primary runway that defined the end of the clover’s stem at a rate of one every 60 to 90 seconds.
At the onset of the event, planes at the bottom of the Lambourne and Biggin stacks, arriving from across the continent from points north and south respectively, were beginning their final descents toward Heathrow. The view of the sprawling London metropolitan area during approach was said to be one of the most spectacular throughout the world, and passengers were glued to their windows taking it all in when the city below began to vanish along a north/south line that was cutting an east/west swath toward Heathrow.
Coming largely from military backgrounds, most pilots were quick to respond, pulling their aircraft into insanely tight turns in the attempt to head back toward the east. Unfortunately, some planes were simply too close already to avoid crossing the Prime Meridian, and in a fraction of a second, passengers in the jets still on hold observed groups of flailing naked people falling from where they had been sitting in their commuter planes and jumbos just a moment before.
Unprepared for the sudden evasive maneuvers, two cargo carriers collided in a fireball before their momentum carried them into the affected zone leaving nothing but smoke hovering over the safe side.
Alerted by the chaotic chatter, the shift supervisor in the ATC rushed to the wrap-around windows in time to see the entire London skyline disappear as the interface moved through it, and distant planes on approach disintegrating before his eyes.
Initially stunned, his military training also kicked in and he barked orders at every controller to wave off all incoming flights – those from the east to return in the direction they had come to land at other airports, and those from the west to turn 180 degrees and keep going until the situation was resolved. Many of these planes were low on fuel, but had little choice to comply even though time was of the essence. Departing flights were directed to continue westward after taking off at the fullest possible throttle.
Within two minutes after event inception, the tower went silent.
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