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London 2012 airspace – helicopter charter implications

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A number of concerns have been raised regarding airspace regulations and rules surrounding the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Helicopter movements in particular will be restricted more than any other form of air transport due to their relatively small size and ability to land almost anywhere. Having spoken to numerous commercial helicopter operators it seems that there is widespread confusion around what can and can’t be done.

To clear up this confusion, Execflyer spoke directly with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) who are responsible for enforcing these airspace restrictions along with NATS (National Air Traffic Services), in order to get a clear view of what to expect during the games.

As for any large event, security in the areas surrounding the Olympic venues is paramount given the current terrorism threats. To maintain security in the air, two separate zones have been set up in London’s Airspace. These are known as the Prohibited Zone and the Restricted zone. 

The Prohibited Zone encompasses most of the City of London, and also covers airfields such as Heathrow, London City, Denham, Fairoaks and Battersea Heliport. Within this area, pick ups via helicopter are not allowed except for airfields and landing sites that have been granted exemptions (all above have exemptions).  Additionally, all flights to be conducted within this zone must have filed a flight plan and submitted all passenger details to the relevant authorities for checking before departure.

 Helicopter traffic through this prohibited zone will utilise a combination of new routes and existing heli lanes with twin engine helicopters being able to fly direct. London Battersea Heliport is the closest official landing site to the games, however the nearby Vanguard heliport on the Isle of Dogs has applied for an exemption, the result of which is expected soon.

The Restricted Zone covers a much larger area and includes airfields such as Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. Within this zone, pickups will be permitted outside of designated airfields (hotels, private residences etc) and flight will in general be much less restricted. If picking up and flying in to the Prohibited zone to drop off, then flight plans must be filed in advance and passenger details submitted. Given anticipated air traffic volumes the more notice helicopter passengers can give the better.

From a fixed wing perspective, it will be business as usual for most operators, with the only major change being mandatory full screening of passengers who will be arriving at either London City or London Heathrow airports (Both airports are in the prohibited zone). Traffic is predicted to be at record levels, and so slot availability at both airports is likely to be restricted. London City slots are now available for those looking to book air charter to the Olympic Games.  London Heathrow will downgrade its capacity during the games as every flight is expected to be full, thus putting increased pressure on the airport infrastructure.

The full AIP supplement for the Olympic airspace is due to be published on the 23rd of February. This will outline all of the above in more detail. For further information you can visit www.Airspacesafety.com/olympics

For any helicopter or fixed wing charter enquiries to the London 2012 Olympics, please call +44(0) 1926 840057 or email fly@execflyer.com. You can also submit charter requests through our website at www.execflyer.com

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