by Katie Calvert
The EDF Energy (formerly British Airways) London Eye is the worlds largest observation wheel though it may eventually be overshadowed by structures planned for Dubai and Las Vegas. It rotates slow enough that it doesn't need to stop for passengers to enter or exit it's huge pods.
The London Eye has been one of London's most fun visitor attractions since it opened in March 2000.
You don't merely ride the London Eye, you fly it.
Your 30-minute flight provides you with a true bird's eye view of London, no wing flapping required, and the views are not to be missed.
Located on the South Bank of the Thamesnext to County Hall, the London Eye was built as part of the Millennium celebration (the wheel is sometimes referred to as the Millennium Wheel).
The London Eye was "launched" on December 31, 1999 and began giving regular flights in March 2000. It was Extremely popular from the beginning and remains so today.
The London Eye is an observation wheel, not a Ferris wheel (the two types of wheel differ in how each structure is supported and how passenger cars or capsules are hung or suspended).
The 443-foot (135-meter) high wheel has 32 passengercapsules; each capsule can carry 25 people.
Air conditioned and far more comfortable than any seat you might have on a county fair ride, the capsules and the wheel that holds them move at a pace that allows passengers to enjoy spotting other London landmarks (such as nearby Westminster Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben) and snapping pictures without a tripod (not allowed on board).
Walk-up tickets are available on a first come, first served basis from the London Eye's ticket office.
To avoid possible disappointment and sidestep queues, you can book your ticket online for a specific day and time. The whole family will enjoy the ride and views.
Special ticket bookings can reserve champagne flights and "cupid flights" for those with romance on their itinerary.
The husband and wife team of Julia Barfield and David Marks designed the London Eye. The fabrication and installation of the attraction was epic in scope, and many of its components had to be created from scratch.
More than 1,700 people in five different countries (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, and Italy) worked on its delivery.
Planning for the installation had to factor in tide tables for the Thames, as barges were used to carry components to the South Bank site. Even so, the delivery of the capsules was delayed when unusually high tides on the River prevented the barges from fitting under certain bridges.
From its construction through its first five years of operation, the London Eye was run by a partnership of British Airways, The Tussauds Group, and Marks Barfield Architects. In 2006 The Tussauds Group took over full ownership. In January of 2011 a partnership with EDF Energy resulted in it being renamed the EDF Energy London Eye. It is operated by the London Eye Company Limited, a Merlin Entertainments Group Company.
While some political delays and technical problems did vex the project, construction milestones, such as hoisting of the wheel, were watched by thousands of spectators. Since its opening, the London Eye has won dozens of tourism and architectural awards.
Original plans called for the London Eye to operate for only five years, but in early 2006 a new 25-year lease was signed. The attraction's popularity has ensured that this symbol of the 21st Century is a permanent part of the London skyline.
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