London Olympics air traffic control chief outlines challenges

 

The transport chief tasked with arranging air control for an estimated  500,000 people visiting Britain for the Olympics has admitted: “It's quite a challenge.”

The London terminal control general manager for National Air Traffic Services (Nats), Paul Haskins, will be responsible for organising thousands of aircraft jetting in and out of the capital for the summer showpiece - and avoiding a catastrophic mid-air collision.

He has cancelled leave for 360 air traffic controllers as Nats prepares to deal with 4,000 extra flights destined for airports serving the Games.

Staff have undergone special radar training to monitor newly-restricted airspace around London and cope with 700 extra airliners and more than 3,000 executive jets flying in and out of South East airports over three weeks before, during and after the Olympics.

The zone surrounding London from which private planes, hot air balloons and microlights are banned will increase by up to 30 miles in all directions to cut the chance of a mid-air crash between a private plane and a jumbo jet packed with sports fans.

The month-long restrictions, which come into force on July 16, cover as far north as Stansted, south to Weymouth, east to the Thames estuary and west to Oxford.

Military chiefs fear pleasure pilots could accidentally stray across the widened boundaries, leaving air controllers unclear as to whether it is a genuine mistake or a hijacked plane destined for the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London.

“During the Olympics if you start infringing London's airspace and you're heading towards one of the key stadiums, the Ministry of Defence is likely to see you as a threat,” Mr Haskins said in an interview with the Press Association.

“The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for uncontrolled airspace.

“We have done a lot of work with them in terms of education because we don't want light aircraft and microlights getting confused about what is and isn't controlled airspace and wandering into an air lane we wouldn't want them in.”

Experts at Nats, responsible for airspace used by commercial airliners, will be the first to know if a plane enters restricted skies, triggering automatic responses which could lead to the RAF launching its Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons to intercept suspect aircraft.

Two fighters were launched earlier this month when a private helicopter failed to respond to warnings, leading to one Typhoon breaking the sound barrier over central England and creating a sonic boom heard by millions.

Mr Haskins said: “Our role is to accommodate the RAF in whatever it deems appropriate in terms of risk assessment and deciding what's a threat.

“If a national security event is declared through the Government and RAF, civilian air traffic is moved out of the way.”

He added military commanders would not have “the luxury” of knowing whether an unidentified plane was a small plane with a lost pilot or a hijacked jet with a terrorist intent on mass murder at the controls.

“The MoD just knows there is an aircraft in airspace it shouldn't be, heading towards a populated area,” said Mr Haskins.

“They will have to do a risk assessment and you might find there is a security response to that flight because they are trying to work out if it is a threat.”

Another issue which could affect the Games is the potential for queues at airports' border controls, which could have a knock-on effect for flights meaning delays and disruption,

Earlier this month MPs revealed their concerns that Heathrow might struggle to cope with increased demand, sparking fears of long waits for immigration checks, which could lead to passengers being kept on planes after landing, clogging up aircraft parking spaces and creating congestion on aprons, forcing officials to “stack” jets in the sky.

Mr Haskins said planes could be held at departing airports to avoid putting too much stress on destination airports and said it was unlikely controllers would need to put jets into holding patterns.

He said systems were in place so Nats could warn airlines of congestion, meaning pilots of London-bound lanes could be ordered not to take off from European airports - minimising pressure at South East terminals.

“We have regular telephone conferences with airports throughout the day where we are looking at forecast demand for the next three to four hours,” he said.

“They advise us in terms of what they can handle and we will regulate the airspace and flows of aircraft to meet whatever the airport has declared its capacity to be.”

He added: “We don't get into a situation where they ring us up and say, 'No more, thank you very much.”'

As well as the extra planes bringing fans, Olympics officials, athletes and media to the capital, three aircraft will hover over Games' venues providing television footage of events like the marathon and road cycling, with another three nearby.

And the demands of American television have placed a rather more unusual burden on airspace regulation so one channel can bring its audience a bird's-eye view of the Olympic Park.

Mr Haskins said: “The broadcaster NBC is chartering an airship for the whole of the Games from where it will present its coverage.”

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths teachers needed for supply work in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Maths teachers requir...

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering