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2012 Olympics… the end of Aviation?

The proposed airspace restrictions which will come into force for the 2012 Olympic games in London have been announced…  but I am not quite sure who dreamt them up!

When London won the 2012 Olympic games it was widely celebrated as being good for business and the economy as a result of all the extra people and spending it would bring it.  It seems that if you are in the business of aviation and you’re in the South East of England, it won’t be good for your business!

Restricted or Prohibited.

Olympic Airspace Restrictions
Olympic Airspace Restrictions

As you can see from the graphic the plan is to establish two temporary control zones.  The central one will be prohibited for all flight apart from IFR traffic for London Heathrow and London City (and RAF Northolt & Biggin Hill).  This include the heli-lanes across London, and London Battersea heliport.

There will then be a much larger Restricted zone which more or less covers all of south eastern England.  Flight by powered aircraft will be permitted in the restricted zone, so long as:

  • A flight plan is filed using AFPEx between 2 and 24 hours prior to flight.
  • An acceptance / approval number is granted in receipt of the above.
  • 2 way RT is established with controlling authority and acceptance number is quoted.
  • Aircraft is squawking the unique assigned transponder code.
  • RT with ATC at all times.

These restrictions will be in full force for 2 months (13 July to 12 Sept 2012).

Why?

Clearly the authorities (in this case The CAA, NATS, MoD, and HM Governments security services) have an obligation to deliver a safe games; and these restrictions are obviously designed to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks using aviation.  But I just don’t see how they can work….

Inside the Restricted zone are a number of general aviation airports, from where a light aircraft can take off and be over the Olympic games sites in under 10 minutes.  All of the measures above will only assist in identifying that an unauthorised flight is taking place.  But can the military really get a fighter jet “on task” that quickly, and if they can – what are they going to do about a light aircraft only a few hundred feet above a packed venue?   Whatever they do there is certain to be a lot of “collateral” damage.

Destructive Effect.

It’s probably fair to assume though that the security services have some form of plan for this eventuality and clearly they aren’t going to share that with the masses.  However, it’s the destructive effect of such a massive restriction zone which concerns me.

Obviously all current commercial traffic into and out of London Battersea will be done for; and there are a further 14 airfields within the zones who have to date not been consulted at all.  There is a suggestion that exemptions may be granted on a case by case basis, but unless these exemptions are pretty generous then general aviation is pretty much ruled out during the Olympics.

So, if you’re a helicopter charter operator who though the Olympics would bring plenty of work in…. you might want to think again.  Or at the very least email Olympics.Airspace@dft.gsi.gov.uk with your concerns!

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