The staging of the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer will have major implications for airports and airspace users, as BILL READ explains.
This is a full article published in Aerospace International: April 2012
There can be few people who are unaware of the fact that the 2012 Olympic Games are to be held in London between 27 July and 12 August followed by the Paralympic Games from 29 August to 9 September. What may be less well-known are the major effects that the event will have on UK airports and airspace – particularly in the London and South East area. During the 31-day Olympics peak period over 110,000 air movements are expected in the London area including an estimated 700 additional charter flights, together with 1,250-1,500 extra helicopter flights per day. There will also be up to 10,000 private jet flights, as well as around 240 flights carrying heads of state.
Restricted and prohibited zones
To regulate traffic during the Olympics, special temporary controlled airspace regulations will come into force. In July last year, Parliament passed the Airports Slot Allocation (Amendment) Regulations 2011 which will give the government control of all landing slots at around 40 airports mostly in the South East of England between 21 July and 15 August during the anticipated peak demand for air services for the Games. Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City are already co-ordinated airports but will be joined for the period of the Olympics by Birmingham, Blackbushe, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Chalgrove, Coventry, Cranfield, Damyns Hall, Denham, Dunsfold, Duxford, Elstree, Fairoaks, Farnborough, Goodwood, Lee-on-Solent, Leicester, London Biggin Hill Airport, London Luton, London Oxford, London Southend, Lydd (London Ashford), Manston, North Weald, Old Sarum, Peterborough Conington, RAF Northolt, Redhill, Rochester, Shoreham, Southampton, Stapleford, Sywell, Thruxton, White Waltham and Wycombe Air Park. The slots will be allocated by the existing UK slot coordinator, Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL)
To use any of these airports, pilots and operators must apply in advance for a slot booking, as no arrivals or departures will be allowed without a pre-booked slot. While the restrictions are in force, the additional temporarily co-ordinated airports will become subject to the EU Slot Regulations 2004 ((1) Article 14.5) which requires member states to ensure that effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions or equivalent measures are available to deal with the repeated and intentional slot misuse at co-ordinated airports.
The UK version of these regulations (Airport Slot Allocation Regulations 2006) will allow ACL to adopt an enforcement code to ensure that flight plans are matched to confirmed airport slots. If a discrepancy is found, an automatic warning message will be sent to the operator advising that corrective action is necessary. If no corrective action is taken within a specified time, the flight plan will be suspended. Operators who misuse slot allocations could face fines of up to £20,000.
Between 14 July and 15 August, an ‘Olympics Restricted Area EG R112 will be set up extending for a 30nm radius around London With this which will be a smaller ‘P111 Prohibited Zone’ around central and west London nearer the Olympic stadium. The outer zone will affect London airports such as Gatwick, Luton and Stansted while Heathrow, London City, Biggin Hill, RAF Northolt and the Battersea London Heliport will be within the inner zone. From 16 August and 12 September a smaller P114 area of prohibited airspace will come into force around the Olympic Park for the Paralympic Games, together with two separate areas of prohibted airspace west of London around the rowing venue at Eton Dorney and the athlete’s village at Egham. There will also be temporary restricted airspace over other Olympic events being held at Weymouth, Hadleigh Farm in Essex, Broxbourne in Herts, Hampden Park in Glasgow, St James Park in Newcastle, City of Coventry Stadium and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Aircraft will not be allowed within the Prohibited Zone unless that have undergone the same crew, passenger and baggage screening security check as are required on normal commercial flights and are outbound or inbound to Heathrow, London City, RAF Northolt or Biggin Hill. Airfields at White Waltham, Denham, Fairoaks and the London Heliport have been give exemptions to allow both visual flight rules (VFR) and instrument flight rules (IFR) operations to and from the Restricted Zone. Depending on air traffic control (ATC) capacity, aircraft will be allowed to enter the restricted zone provided they have been given approval to fly based on conditions determined by aircraft type. A special dedicated air traffic service based at the NATS Swanwick centre named Atlas Control operated by Ministry of Defence controllers will control flights in the restricted zone. Any aircraft that enter these areas without permissions may be intercepted by military aircraft. The only aircraft exempt from restrictions will be military, security, emergency medical and Olympic Broadcast Service aircraft.
Defending the skies
Although it is to be profoundly hoped that no aerial security incidents will occur during the Games, the UK is prepared for such an eventually and the airspace over the prohibited zone will be patrolled by both police and military aircraft. The Metropolitan Police are expected to operate their three Eurocopter EC145 helicopters currently based at Lippitts Hill in Essex and may also use UAVs for aerial observation. RAF and Royal Navy aircraft have already conducted two pre-Olympic security exercises, Taurus Mountain 1 and Taurus Mountain 1, which included Typhoon fighters, a Sentry E-3D airborne early warning aircraft, Lynx, Sea King and Puma helicopters and Grob Tutor trainers. During the Games, Typhoons are to be based close at hand at RAF Northolt while the Royal Navy helicopter ship HMS Ocean will be stationed on the Thames near Greenwich. Lynx Mk 8 helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron will be flying with RAF snipers on board while the UK Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond, confirmed in November that surface-to-air missiles could be deployed close to venues such as the Olympic Park during the Olympics to protect against possible suicide air attacks.
In addition to the imposition of slot controls, many UK airports will also have to cope with greatly increased numbers of passengers. The airport most affected is Heathrow which been named as the host airport for the London 2012 Games. Between July and September, an estimated 80% of all overseas Games visitors will arrive and depart through through the airport, totalling around 125,000 athletes, officials, sponsors, media and spectators. The vistors will arrive through Terminals 1,3,4 and 5 (Terminal 2 is currently being rebuilt) while athletes departing after the Games on 13-15 August will use a specially built temporary dedicated Games departure terminal located on the south side of the airport between Terminal 4 and British Airways World Cargo in an area normally used for staff car parking. Open for just three days, the 70x55m Games terminal will have 31 check-in desks and seven security lanes and will divert up to 10,100 passengers and 37,900 bags from the main terminals.
In an attempt to prevent overcrowding, flights in and out of Heathrow will be cut by up to a fifth during the Olympics with a maximum of 36 take-offs and landings an hour, compared with between 43-44 in the summer of 2011.The airport is currently working at close to 100% capacity and it is hoped that limiting take-offs and landing will allow to the airport enough slack to keep operating on time. Normal scheduled services will continue to operate but private and charter flights will not be able to use the airport.
Heathrow has admitted that the Games will pose a unique operational challenge. The airport is expected to be at its busiest from Friday 13 July through to Wednesday 13 September with its busiest day ever on Monday 13 August, the day after the Olympic Games closing ceremonies when Heathrow will handle an estimated 138,000 passengers and 218,000 items of baggage. Around 15% of these bags will be outsize sporting equipment, such as canoes, pole vaults or bicycles, which cannot be processed through normal baggage systems. Special measures will also be put into place for athlethes bringing guns for shooting events — 390 with 780 firearms for the Olympics and 140 with 200 firearms. for the Paralympics. When the competitors arrive, the firearms will be collected and transported to the Royal Artillery Barracks from which they will be taken to the appropriate venue. The Paralympic Games will also pose own logistics challenges for the airport with higher than normal volumes of passengers with restricted mobility and the carriage of large numbers of wheelchairs.
Heathrow operator BAA estimates that the cost of handling extra traffic during the Olympics will be in excess of £20m. As well as the cost of building the temporary departure terminal, the money will be used for provide check-in and baggage collection facilities at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Stratford, building extra lifts for Paralympians, making multilingual staff available for arriving and departing passengers and providing media facilities for journalists. Heathrow is also currently recruiting unpaid 1,000 ‘Team Heathrow’ volunteers to meet athletes, VIPs and spectators and escort them through the airport. At present BAA says that it does not anticipate that the Games will present any additional security risks, although extra and specialist resources will be deployed on the busiest days. To help prepare for the London Games, Heathrow sent a planning team to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 as well as talking to airport operators involved with the Athens and Sydney Olympics.
Due to the restrictions at Heathrow, charter flights, private jets and business aircraft are expected to make more use of secondary airfields — although they will still have to book slots if the airports are within the Restricted Zone. One air hub expecting particularly heavy demand from VIP traffic is the London Heliport in Battersea, recently acquired from helicopter charter operator PremiAir by Reuben Brothers, owners of London Oxford airport. Although it is located within the Prohibited Zone, the heliport will still be able to operate flights in and out of London using a combination of new routes and existing heli lanes. However, it will not be allowed to fly clients any closer to the Olympic venues and visitors who arrive at Battersea will have to continue their journeys by ground or possibly river transport.
Among the other airports expecting additional business during the Olympics is London Luton which is building two new traffic lanes to cope with anticipated demand. The airport is expecting an increase in private jet flights with resident aircraft operators Signature Flight Support, Harrods Aviation and Ocean Sky all prepared for an influx in demand. Meanwhile, airports outside the controlled airspace zone are busy trying to attract private and GA operators, including London Oxford Airport – although, even here, aircraft will still have to reserve landing slots.
The fact that high volumes of air traffic during the Olympics will fill up air space in the south East of England close to maximum capacity has raised concerns with airlines. In March, the ceos of British Airways , Virgin Atlantic EasyJet and British Midland (BMI) sent a letter to the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department of Transport warning of ‘a significant risk of severe delay and disruption at all London’s major airports’ during the Games in the event of unforeseen incidents, such as bad weather or security alerts. The airlines have requested that air traffic controllers be allowed to prioritise different types of aircraft so that scheduled flights get preference over business and private flights.
Aerospace International Contents - April 2012
News Roundup – p4
News Focus p 11
The only (run)way is Essex
Singapore’s Wings- p 12
Show report from the 2012 Singapore Air Show
iPads take to the skies- p 18
Apple’s tablet makes its mark in the skies
What price persistence?- p 22
What was behind the USAF’s decision to axe its Block 30 Global Hawks?
Regional realignment - p 24
The changing market for new regional aircraft
Aerial Olympics- p 28
Managing the airspace over the world’s biggest sporting event
Power from the sun - p 30
Are space-based solar power schemes viable?
The last word – p 35
Keith Hayward onthe new Anglo-French defence agreement
This is a full article published in Aerospace International: April 2012. As a member, you recieve two new Royal Aeronautical Society publications each month – find out more about membership.