London's Millennium Wheel Stalled

Safety tests continue as the London Eye misses it's premier on New Year's Eve

It was suppose to be one of London’s biggest draws, a huge Ferris wheel that began spinning tourists on New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, the wheel didn’t carry any customers for the Year 2000 celebration, and here it is a week into the New Year and the millennium wheel is still stalled.

The firework celebration is long over, the laser show completed and still the "London Eye" has yet to carry passengers in any of its 31 glass capsules. On New Year’s Eve just hours before the debut run, a safety problem stopped the festivities planned for the wheel. The wheel turned, but without carrying the 250 guests as planned. Safety tests have been going on all week and will continue until experts proclaim every capsule of the Ferris wheel safe.

The airline had invited 250 competition-winning guests to the wheel on December 31 to take the first ride on the massive structure. Those winners didn’t get to ride the wheel but they did get a dinner cruise and free airline tickets for their trouble.

It turns out the New Year’s Eve problem was with a German-made clutch on one of the capsules. Tests have been going on all week to determine if this is an isolated problem, or a safety concern that will effect every one of the 31 capsules. At this point, eight of the capsules appear to operate fine and that’s a bit of good news for British Airways. The airline is the sponsor of the giant Ferris wheel.

The 450-foot wheel sits on the bank of the River Thames and riders can see up and down the river and all around London from the top of the "London Eye. The wheel is next to the old County Hall building across the Thames from the Houses of Parliament.

British Airways is hoping to begin selling public rides on February 1. The airline hopes to carry 2.5 million passengers on it in its first 12 months. That may be a low number, an independent research company found that the figure could reach four million. Source: Press Association Newswire

DATE: 1/14/2000

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