Olympic no-fly zone 'will bankrupt firms'

Aviation industry fears small companies will not recover from lockdown of airspace over 2012 venues
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The Independent Online

An unprecedented security lockdown of UK airspace over Olympic venues to prevent a 9/11-style attack will push British aviation companies to the brink of bankruptcy, according to the industry.

Aircraft that fail to comply with a no-fly zone over the capital and vast swathes of south-east England face being shot down by military Apache helicopters.

A month-long clampdown beginning next July will restrict all but essential flights over the capital to prevent any aircraft, including microlights and hang-gliders, from being used in a terrorist attack on Games venues or other disturbances.

Similar restrictions will apply over Weymouth and Portland, where sailing events will be staged, and over the football stadiums in Coventry, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle. Aircraft entering restricted airspace will require permission from RAF wing commanders seconded to the Metropolitan Police or face being shot down by the military.

But the aviation industry claims that the restrictions are too draconian and will drive some companies, such as flight schools, out of business. They warn the clampdown will span the industry's two busiest months. Some aviation firms estimate potential losses could amount to £250,000. No compensation is being offered.

Martin Robinson, the chief executive of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said they were told the terrorist threat level for the Games is "severe". "If they have to shut the airspace down, the loss of income would be so damaging it's hard to see how the businesses will recover. That would be a terrible legacy for the Olympics."

In April, the Department for Transport admitted 67 private air fields, flight schools and leisure flight operators would be affected.

Denis Campbell, the deputy chairman of Booker Gliding Club near Marlow, Buckinghamshire, said: "It's an astonishing irony that as a direct consequence of a national sporting celebration, we, a recognised sporting club with a distinguished heritage, may be destroyed and that no provision has been made for compensation."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Our approach to security is risk-based and intelligence-led, and it is normal to put in place restrictions over large public gatherings, such as sporting events, on safety grounds."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman added: "It would not be appropriate to discuss any security plans in detail at this stage."