2015 IAAF World Championship in Beijing: Top Operational Considerations

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2015 IAAF World Championship in Beijing: Top Operational Considerations

This is a post by author Jimmy Young. Jimmy serves as country manager for Universal Aviation China, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Jimmy is an expert on business aircraft operations in China and can be contacted at jimmyyoung@universalaviation.aero.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) biennial World Championship takes place Aug 22-30 in Beijing. Primary event venue is the National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest,” north of the city. While we do not anticipate crew accommodation issues, it’s recommended to confirm parking, aircraft services, and hotel rooms as early as possible in order to take advantage of preferred options.

The following is an overview of operational considerations to be aware of if operating to this event:

1. Event location

The National “Bird’s Nest” stadium is located 28 km (about a 40-minute drive) from Beijing Capital (ZBAA). The Chaoyang Sports Center, another key IAAF venue, is about 20 km (a 20-minute drive) from ZBAA.

2. ZBAA is the primary airport

If you’re attending the 2015 IAAF or operating to Beijing during this time period, ZBAA is the preferred airport. While this is a 24-hour Airport of Entry (AOE), there are parking and aircraft movement limitations that must be considered. General Aviation (GA) parking is currently limited to a maximum of 24 hours; however, from time to time, operators have been able to negotiate extensions. As the IAAF event takes place during what’s considered low season in Beijing, parking extensions may be more likely, but at the discretion of airport authorities. Any negotiated parking extension beyond 24 hours will only be confirmed on day of operation and communicated via your ground handler. At this time no notices to airmen have been issued for the IAAF period, for any Beijing-area airport. If any additional airport restrictions are published, based on traffic/airport congestion determinations, this will not likely be known until a couple of weeks out from IAAF start date.

3. Airport alternates

Tanjin (ZBTJ) is the recommended alternate for ZBAA and about 130 km from central Beijing. Drive time from ZBTJ to central Beijing is about one hour 45 minutes, but there’s also a high-speed train service available. While this train does not operate 24 hours, it reduces travel time from ZBTJ to central Beijing to just 35 minutes. While no airport slots are needed for ZBTJ, aircraft parking may become an issue from time to time due to aircraft repositioning from ZBAA. ZBTJ offers full aircraft services, aviation fuel, in-flight catering, and a good selection of Ground Support Equipment (GSE). An additional alternate to consider, although less practical and convenient than ZBTJ, is Shijiazhuang (ZBSJ). Although ZBSJ is a 24-hour AOE, Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) is usually only available during arrival times of scheduled commercial flights at this airfield. Aircraft support services and GSE availability are limited at ZBSJ, so it’s important to work with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler to determine if needed services will be available. ZBSJ is about 330 km from central Beijing with drive time of about four hours. We recommend ZBSJ only be considered as an alternate if ZBTJ is not available for overnight parking.

4. Helicopter transfers

Helicopter transfers are possible to set up from ZBTJ to the Beijing area, but only if you have plenty of lead time. It’s generally difficult to obtain Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) approvals for helicopter transfers on short notice. With a helicopter transfer, you’ll not be able to land in downtown Beijing, or at the National Stadium, but only at helipads on the outskirts of the city. So, you’ll still need to arrange ground transport to move passengers from a heliport to the business district or stadium.

5. Chinese landing permits – lead times

Although CAAC has official lead times of two to three business days for landing permits, you’ll often obtain permits within 24 hours assuming all your information/documentation is in order and the request is submitted during business hours. Be mindful that short-notice permit requests are at discretion of CAAC, and 24-hour permit turnarounds are not possible on weekends or holidays.

6. Operating restrictions

On May 15, 2015, ZBAA reduced maximum GA parking down from 48 to 24 hours. Additionally, no GA aircraft the size of an Airbus ACJ, Boeing BBJ, or larger may park overnight at ZBAA. Be mindful that GA operators have access to only one slot – either for a landing or takeoff – during peak hour periods from 0800 to 2200 local daily. So, if you land at 0900 local, you’ll not be able to depart until after 2200 local. Note also that GA aircraft are not allowed to depart ZBAA between 0700 and 0900 local.

7. CIQ clearance

CIQ clearance at ZBAA is completed in the GA terminal. It’s a streamlined process that usually takes about five minutes per passenger. Plan on closer to 15 minutes per passenger when clearing CIQ at ZBTJ as clearance is accomplished via the main terminal. CIQ at ZBTJ is particularly strict, and operators are subject to fines if there are any errors or items that are not clear. CIQ fines at ZBTJ range from about 1,500 to 6,000 USD for infractions such as submitting the wrong gen dec, an expired passport or visa, or incorrect data for passengers or crew. It’s important anywhere in China, but particularly at ZBTJ, that all crew and passenger information be submitted without errors.

8. Hotel options

Beijing has many good 4- and 5-star hotel options available for crew and passenger accommodation, both in the city center and closer to the National Stadium. While we do not foresee a shortage of accommodations during the IAAF period, preferred downtown options and hotels closer to the National Stadium should be booked well in advance. Average price for 4-star accommodations may run 300+ USD per night during the event period.

9. Additional information

More information on the Bird’s Nest and Chaoyang sports centers in Beijing can be found on the IAAF website. To learn more about the Marathon Route, see the IAAF site.


If you plan to attend the 2015 IAAF event in Beijing or are traveling there during this time period, it’s important to be clear on permit requirements as well as GA parking limitations and airport curfew periods. While summer is considered slow season, in terms of traffic, movements pick up in late August, and this will likely impact parking availability at ZBAA.

IAAF is a trademark of the International Association of Athletics Federations and Universal Aviation China is no way affiliated with IAAF.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to China, contact Christine Vamvakas christinevamvakas@univ-wea.com.

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