London 2012, the route ahead

Next year’s eagerly awaited Olympic Games in London will bring a much welcome boost to the region’s hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers and, of course, airports. Hosting the Games, however, has presented the UK Government with its fair share of logistical challenges. While constructing new venues is technically demanding, that work is at least subject to known pressures. Security for the Games on the other hand, is based entirely around unknowns, which is why every conceivable risk has to be countered. As part of this vital security work the Government has now announced the airspace restrictions to be imposed over South East England during the two month period covering the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A ‘Prohibited Zone’ will be created roughly corresponding to Central London, taking in Heathrow and City airports. For commercial airline operators and other operators that have undergone crew, passenger and baggage screening in accordance with the relevant aviation security programme, and are inbound to, or outbound from, Heathrow, London City, RAF Northtolt and Biggin Hill, it will be business as usual. These restrictions predominantly affect general aviation. The Prohibited Zone will be surrounded by a larger ‘Restricted Zone’, which will cover London’s three other international airports, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. As well as IFR traffic, some general aviation aircraft will be allowed to enter the Restricted Zone if they comply with requirements defined by aircraft type. Both zones will operate from 13 July 2012 to 12 September 2012. Airspace restrictions will also be placed around other Games venues, in much the same way as for other major sporting events. These will only be in place for the duration of the event at that venue.

Separate to the Government’s airspace restrictions, the UK’s principal air traffic service provider, NATS, has proposed changes to controlled airspace in the South East of England to cope with extra capacity demand. These changes are currently being processed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and will be published shortly.

The Government, CAA and NATS will now work with the aviation industry to ensure the planned measures, and their potential impacts, are fully understood, with any issues ironed out well in advance. A comprehensive communication and education programme has already begun to keep all airspace users up-to-date on aviation related Olympic news. The CAA will also be arranging visits and briefings at airfields in and around the restricted airspace.

The Government has stated its commitment to delivering a safe and secure Games. While the airspace restrictions to be imposed in summer 2012 will undoubtedly cause disruption and inconvenience for some airspace users, the safety and security of passengers, pilots and people on the ground has to take priority. The next 16 months will be intense for all those involved in the Games. A successful and trouble free Olympics will be their reward.

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