28 MARCH 2011


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Article from BTNews 28 MARCH 2011

COMMENT: Olympic cohesion

It looks as if finally the aviation aspects for the 2012 Olympic Games are coming together.  The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced plans for temporary airspace control measures that will apply over London and the South East during the Games period.  It is envisaged that the measures will be in place from 13 July to 12 September 2012, to cover the period of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The measures comprise an inner prohibited airspace zone and an outer restricted zone, approximately 60 nautical miles across, centred on the Olympic Park.

The Department has also published, in conjunction with what was technically a Ministerial Statement, a most comprehensive listing of what it calls “Airports in South East England” available to non-scheduled flights during this period.

It claims (very optimistically) all of them to be within 120 minutes of the main Olympic site of Stratford.  Listed are 27 airports, but not included are some pure general aviation outposts such as Elstree in North London, North Weald, south of Stansted and Stapleford Aerodrome, a grass flying club strip perhaps the closest to the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park of them all.  Heathrow is not included as it is considered full.

Only certain categories of aircraft – those operating commercial services and subject to full security procedures – will normally be permitted to operate within the Prohibited Zone.  Aircraft involved in, for example, Police, Medevac and Olympic Broadcast operations will be exempted.  Other operations at airports within this zone may also be considered for exemption subject to strict conditions, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  The DfT says it is working with Battersea Heliport to agree a basis on which operations there may be allowed to continue.

All types of aircraft will be permitted to operate in the wider restricted zone provided that they can satisfy certain requirements designed to ensure that all aircraft within the zone can be readily identified and monitored by air traffic control.  What is not clear is how priority will be given for what is likely to be very congested airspace.  Would a regular, say Dutch, Piper Warrior user into Southend get priority over a once only executive business jet from Moscow?

It is not expected that any airports will need to close as a result of the measures. There should be no impact on scheduled air services, and limited engagement impact on most other types of operations outside the prohibited zone. 

The Government, the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS say it will now work with airspace users and others to ensure that the planned measures, and their potential impacts are fully understood and discussed before the regulations to implement them are made later this year.

With Heathrow eliminated London City is the only airport within the prohibited zone.  It is too small for the big VIP jets.  Will the high and mighty downgrade or chance their arm with the London traffic and motor from Gatwick, Luton and Stansted?  Interesting times are looming up aviation-wise for London 2012.



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