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What’s in Store for the 2012 Olympic Games?

Changes Underway to Slot Allocation, Security Requirements

May 18, 2011

Companies planning missions to London next year as the 2012 Summer Olympics are taking place should familiarize themselves beforehand with airspace and security requirements, according to a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official, but overall they shouldn't expect an experience very much different from today.

Jonathan Nicholson, CAA assistant director of corporate communication, says CAA is preparing its “second-level” airfields accordingly. "We are expecting a significant increase in traffic levels to any airfield in the southeast of England, depending how full places become and how far they need to go," he says. "Farnborough, Biggin Hill, Southend, Manston, Fair Oaks, Stansted and Luton will probably see an increase in traffic.

"There will be a new system of slot allocation introduced to those second-level airports," Nicholson adds, to handle the expected influx of traffic. "Pretty much now you may file a flight plan, and pitch up. That will not be the case with the Olympics." The allocation program will be handled by Airport Coordination Limited, Nicholson says, and will be rolled out closer to the actual games.

Security is another area where pilots may expect changes. While procedures have not yet "100 percent been finalized," Nicholson expects a significant increase in security requirements for business operators.

"It may well be the UK government will require an aircraft to have left an airfield with a certain level of security before being allowed to land in southeast England," he says. "They will probably have to land somewhere first with a higher level of security, before being cleared to proceed to their destination airfield."

A private company, NATS, handles air traffic control services over England. That entity "has already put forth changes, more controlled airspace," Nicholson says. "There may also be additional airfields that don't have controlled airspace now, but may be applying for it to handle traffic."

A web site detailing those changes is available at http://olympics.airspacesafety.com and will be updated continually as July 2012 approaches. A list of security requirements is available as well, though for the moment they “are primarily for leisure fliers,” Nicholson says.

Nicholson notes many pilots and operators may be making their first visit to England for the Olympics – and there are key differences in procedures, even under normal operating conditions, they should review before taking off.

"For business pilots who haven't been to England before, it's worth noting our airspace is different than the states," Nicholson says. "It is quite possible to come all the way here in controlled airspace, but then leave controlled airspace and be in Class G until you reach the airfield. It's highly probable you could leave the protection of controlled airspace. You may be talking to a controller, but it may still be up to you to visually separate from traffic."

Nicholson adds there should be no major changes to equipment needs and communications procedures, even as Europe moves towards implementation of the Link 2000+ data link communications network.

“All our air stuff will be further away than this,” Nicholson concludes. “Generally, it will be the airspace as it is today. Finding a parking space may be a bit more difficult, though.”