BAN's World GazetteerU.K.
The London Olympic Games this summer are expected to attract 600,000 people, mostly spectators, but also including 17,000 athletes, 2,000 team officials, 20,000 press/media and many Heads of State and vips. Large numbers of additional flights will be required, and while the deluge of actual bookings may still be over the horizon even at this advanced stage, there are major plans in place to cope with demand when it happens.
Early in 2010 engineering consultancy Atkins delivered a demand forecast for summer 2012 air traffic which indicated a net addition over the peak 31-day period of the Games, of about 240,000 passengers over baseline commercial air passenger numbers. On the peak day, predicted to be August 13th after the closing ceremony, there are expected to be up to 200 additional departures from the five primary London area airports. A significant contribution to the increased air traffic demand was expected to be from business aviation, forecast to account for over 3,000 more flights in the peak 31-day period.
So action has been taken, and airport slot co-ordination – which is permanent at the major airports of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London City – has been extended to 36 other airfields and airports for the period around the main Games.
Slots must be pre-booked at airports for arrivals and departures, and charter services may also require an operating permit from the government's Department for Transport.
IFR arrivals and departures are being formally coordinated at all airports in the south east of England by Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) using a slot allocation system.
For example, on a weekday in the hour from 0700 to 0759 Luton will have 36 slots (including those used by its scheduled and holiday traffic), Southampton 22, Southend and Farnborough 20 each, Bournemouth 15, Biggin Hill and Cambridge 10 each, Manston and Oxford six each, Blackbushe five, Lydd and Northolt four each, and the remaining airports even fewer.
TAG Farnborough Airport ceo Brandon O'Reilly says: "We have already received a high number of advanced bookings, with over 700 slots taken so far."
The airport choices
Some trips to the Olympics will be simpler than others, those following the football tournament may need to travel to stadiums in four cities unaffected by airspace restrictions or additional slot requirements; Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and Newcastle, or to Coventry (slots required at Coventry airport, daytime only, eight movements per hour) and Wembley in London.
Weymouth on the south coast is to host the sailing and paralympic sailing, but the small area of restricted airspace above the competition does not extend as far as Bournemouth airport. Slots will be required but there will be some availability 24-hours and up to 15 per hour during the day.
All of the other sports take place in London or its environs. Lee Valley to the north will be the venue for canoeing, and is most easily reached from the airports to the north of the city. Hadleigh Farm to the east will provide the mountain biking course, and is the closest event venue to Southend airport which will operate 24-hours. Brands Hatch, south east of London, will provide its racing track for the paralympic (but not main Games) road cycling, and Eton Dorney to the west will host rowing and sprint canoeing. Among west London airfields/airports, Northolt has the greatest slot allocation, although Blackbushe and Farn-borough are also conveniently close.
All other events take place in the Olympic Park itself or other parts of central London.
Visitors might enjoy a road trip to the closest airfield to the Park, Damyns Hall, on August 4th and 5th for its annual Military and Flying Machines show, but its grass strip offers few opportunities for travel to the Games themselves, with no movement slots allocated.
All of the major business aviation airports are keen to attract visitors throughout the Games and will have made arrangements to transfer passengers to central London. One option is the London Heliport in Battersea, recently acquired by the Reuben brothers, owners of Oxford airport, with newly developed terminal and vip lounge. The heliport benefits from exemption to the prohibited flight zone during the Olympics, although passengers and crew may be required to have been through pre-screening.
The final stretch of the journey will inevitably be by railway, such as the Javelin fast trains from St Pancras station in just seven minutes, or by coach from a park-and-ride site.
The operators' view
GlobeAir of Austria is typical of many European business jet operators grappling with the slot booking requirements. "We are planning to fly a lot to London during the Olympic period," says Claudia Fanini, marketing and communications manager. "We have already received some requests from brokers and there is a lot of interest for this event, but no flights have been booked so far.
"Our plan is to handle any request one by one, in order to offer the best solution to our customers.
GlobeAir sponsors the Polo Gold Cup 2012 (see news page 6), but the Olympic Games is the first huge sporting event in which we have been involved as an operator and all our team is working hard to make it successful," adds Fanini.
One company that does have firm bookings chalked up already is Denim Air from the Netherlands, which has one Fokker 50 available year-round for charters. Ted van Zundert, director of sales and marketing, has fielded enquiries about transport to the Euro 2012 championships, but rather more for the Olympics. "Interest is mainly from vip groups, whether companies or supporters and fans. Slots are available as we fly in to the less crowded airports and fly in and out so no parking is required," he says.
"We have vast experience of flying at major sports events. We fly to Le Mans each year, and also fly many sports teams across Europe from football to rugby, and cycling to ice hockey. In the past we have also done the Dakar rally and Beijing rally, flying domestic in China."
The expedition from Holland to Beijing was in 2006, for a classic car rally transporting parts, vips and the camera teams covering the rally. They were 90 minute sectors each time, with the film crew covering the start and then flying to film the finish. "Very nice," says van Zundert, "and yes, lots of paperwork, stamps and overflights. In Russian and Chinese airspace it is not easy to arrange all these papers."
He reports that cycling teams tend to transport the bikes by road, while other teams such as football, basketball, volley ball and ice hockey take their kit on board.
As for slots: "With proper preparation time it is no problem. Ad-hoc and last minute? It is just a matter of finger crossing and smiling over the phone!"
Eastern Airways has one aircraft, a Saab 2000, dedicated to shuttle flying between Stansted and the Netherlands throughout the Olympics. "Other than this we have received some ad-hoc requests, but not as many as I had expected," says Andy Barlow.
"However it is clear that, as with Euro 2012, there will be some complications involved with flights to this event, including possible issues with layover parking and crew hotel availability at the London airports. I am keeping an open mind as to whether this event will generate much more in the way of business for us, as it's a bit early to tell."
Mike Russell, ceo of Oryx Jet, is similarly expectant: "We have had enquiries for both major events (Olympics and Euro 2012) but no confirmed bookings to our knowledge for either. I assume clients are awaiting any final ticket allocations. We do expect significant bookings.
"The majority of our business at the moment comes through brokers so I cannot tell you where the customers originate or who they are. Presently we do not have any problems with slots or parking and we do not envisage this being a major problem to us. As we started operating at the end of 2010 we have not flown into major sporting events but Biggin Hill, where we expect most of our traffic, is our home base and we work very closely with the airport."
Simon Wheatley, manager UK of the major air charter broker Air Partner Private Jets says: "While we would encourage people to book their flights as early as possible if they plan to attend the Olympics, particularly in view of airport congestion and slot delay forecasts, many private jet users can't or don't want to do so.
"It is precisely the speed of response and flexibility afforded by private jet travel that attracts them to this mode of transport. So rather than tell the client what they should do differently this summer, at Air Partner we asked ourselves what we should do differently.
"With this in mind, a team from Air Partner Ops24, our specialist 24-hour flight planning service, has travelled the length and breadth of the UK to understand the issues raised by the unique operating environment during the Olympics from those in the know. They have been visiting airports, operators and handling agents all winter to discuss slot availability, turnaround times, aircraft parking, possible weather contingencies, diversion strategies – every possible private jet issue and scenario has been investigated. The result is a thoroughly researched database and directory of personal contacts which together represent an invaluable resource and a key advantage."
And when the airport slots have all gone?
Provincial airports around the UK will be hoping to pick up on overflow traffic at the height of the season. Nick Cavell, airport manager at Gamston, some 150 miles away from the Olympic village, thinks he might be able to offer an option for the all too late requests to bring aircraft to the UK. "It is no secret that the issues are not necessarily slots to get into the London fields but parking. This is where I feel we could be a solution to some operators," he says.
"We have a 1,683m runway and can take aircraft up to 25 tonnes in weight and a relatively short hop (about 20 minutes) gets you here from London. We have a one minute taxi time to/from the active runway.
"My thinking is that operators could position the passengers into London, re-position the aircraft to Gamston, shut down and park the aircraft and then if required, crew could be on a train from Retford station into London, journey time about one hour 40 minutes. My boss has his own security team that could be detailed to be at Gamston on a 24-hour basis and we also have full CCTV that is monitored continuously, by ex-Ghurkas, paras and commandos."
Diamond-Executive Aviation plays a role in Olympics security
Some business operators have already benefited from the Olympics long before the torch has been lit.
The RAF's Typhoon-equipped 17 Squadron has conducted activity associated with the intervention of light aircraft as part of the UK Government's wide ranging security initiatives around the 2012 Olympic Games. "Diamond-Executive Aviation provided Diamond DA42 Twin Star aircraft and crews to assist the RAF in developing a variety of intervention procedures," reports Peter Bondar ceo and CAA accountable manager.
"The trials conducted in Class G airspace to the south west of Birmingham were conducted during early March and involved the DA42s flying at a variety of levels to help assess the Typhoon's onboard systems. The trial was successfully completed and valuable data was acquired to assist the RAF in the planning for the security provisions," he adds.