This aviation blog post is part of a series on planning a business aviation flight to London for the 2012 Olympic Games.
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will be held in London and across the U.K. from July 27th to August 12th, followed by the Paralympic Games from August 29th to September 9th. For air travel, this period will be among the busiest ever experienced in the area. Record levels of corporate aircraft movements are projected. Operators should carefully review their objectives to determine which airport best fits their needs.
The good news is that the U.K. airport authorities want to have a “business as usual” approach, so there are no plans for additional onerous security measures. While there will be an increase in security personnel at airports, customs, immigration and quarantine processes will remain the same. There are currently no plans to raise security threat levels.
However, operating flexibility will be limited. All airports will require slots, and a restricted and prohibited airspace structure will be in place from July 14th to August 15th. Traveling to the games with your corporate aircraft will be manageable if you work early to secure parking and the best available slots. Book early to avoid complications.
1. Choose the right airport for your operations
Reservations will be required for all 40 General Aviation (GA) airports surrounding London. Pick an airport based on the venues you want to attend. Some airports will not be open to GA movements, while others will extend operating hours during this period. Those not able to book early may not get slots at common London-area airports and will have to consider more distant alternatives. Other airports will have operating hours and ramp capacity constraints. For example, business aircraft will be unable to use London Heathrow and Gatwick, while London City airport will have restricted hours and block closures for security. Additionally, not all Olympic venues are in London, so a different airport outside the city might be a better fit.
|Slot availability||Ramp space||Travel time to Olympics by road||24/7 operating hours||Able to accommodate larger than a BBJ|
|Biggin Hill||Yes – Check with your 3rd-party provider||High||40 min.||No||No|
|Farnborough||Yes – Check with your 3rd-party provider||High||60-90 min.||No||No|
|Gatwick||None – Only GA permitted are Head of State||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Heathrow||None – Only GA permitted are Head of State||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Luton||Yes – Check with your 3rd-party provider||Med||50-60 min.||Yes||Contingent on ramp space|
|London City||Restricted hours and block closures for security||Low||15 min.||No||No|
|Northolt||Yes – Check with your 3rd-party provider||High||60-90 min.||No||No|
|Stansted||Yes – Check with your 3rd-party provider||High||30-40 min.||Yes||Yes|
2. Be aware of airspace restrictions
The U.K. National Air Traffic Service is developing an entirely new airspace structure for business flights during the games. In addition to a large restricted zone from close to the southern coast of England to near Cambridge north of London, a smaller prohibited area will be in effect around London Olympic venues from July 14th to August 15th. A smaller set of airspace restrictions will then be put in place for the London 2012 Paralympic Games from August 16th to September 12th. A detailed 1:500,000 visual flight rules chart of the 2012 Olympics airspace restrictions will be available online in early March of 2012. We recommend that all crew use the following Web site as the games draw near to obtain updates about airspace restrictions surrounding the venue: http://olympics.airspacesafety.com.
3. Consider slot requirements
All aircraft arriving to or departing from Olympics slot-coordinated U.K. airports from July 21st to August 15th and using controlled airspace will be required to have appropriate slots. Flight plans and runway slots will be linked and monitored. Submitting a flight plan without a valid slot ID will result in the flight plan being cancelled. It’s best to plan early for both parking and slot requirements. Airway slots (issued by Central Flow Management Unit) are separate from airport slots and will have a deviation of -5 minutes to +10 minutes. Each airport has its own per-hour slot quota. Slots for RONs (remaining overnights) will only be confirmed if parking is available. Try to resist revisions to the schedule in order to avoid issues with slots and parking. There are plenty of slots available right now, but the most desirable slot times will go quickly.
4. Prepare for charter permits early
If possible, charter operators should book slots and parking early, as there will be capacity constraints. In order to avoid costly delays, ensure that all documentation required for landing permits is up to date. The permit process time will remain the normal five working days. (A minimum notice is 48 hours for all requests.) For short-notice charter requests, normal rules will apply. It’s at the discretion of the U.K. Department of Transportation to provide a status and answer to requests within a shorter time frame. Pay attention to 4th, 5th and 7th Freedom Acts (cabotage), as this may affect domestic leg flights for within the U.K.
5. Ensure proper documentation
In addition to having a current passport with at least a six-month validity, please take the time to check when and if your crew and passengers might require visas to enter the U.K. Due to the increased travel expected during this period, there might be delays in getting visas processed through your local embassy. Below is a helpful site that will provide a list of U.K. embassies worldwide, along with contact information:
6. Consider getting help
Flight operations to the Olympics and other large events like it – such as the Davos World Economic Forum, the Cannes Film Festival and many others – often require a good deal of arrangements and planning beyond those for your typical trip. Because of all the details and complexities involved in these types of trips, we recommend that you work with an experienced 3rd-party provider who can work with you to make your trip a success.
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our next installment in the series: 4 Action Items for Successful 2012 London Olympic Games Trip Planning, which includes tips on ground services and getting around London during the Olympic Games.
About Jason Hayward
Based in London, Jason Hayward, General Manager for Universal Aviation UK, is an expert on ground support and operations into the United Kingdom. He’s been with Universal since 1997 and has more than 17 years’ experience combined in aviation handling and operations. A native of the UK and veteran of the Royal Air Force, Jason has been instrumental in helping establish Universal Aviation offices around the globe.
Jason is also an expert on coordinating operations and handling for special events and was Universal’s point person for the 2012 London games. He’s shared his insight on operations and special events with many industry publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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