London 2012: Air Traffic Chief's Challenge

Lia Hervey, Olympics producer
London 2012: Air Traffic Chief's Challenge

The military will "sterilise" London's airspace during the Olympic Games in the most severe air security restrictions Britain has ever seen, it has been revealed.

At a briefing on Heathrow's airport use during the Games, Paul Haskins, general manager of the London Terminal Control centre, revealed that the restrictions used during the London 2012 Olympics will be as strong as those in place post-September 11.

Airspace will go into lock down between July 14 and August 15 this summer.

Air traffic will be highly controlled with pre-approved planes being told which routes to take well in advance.

Any unapproved air traffic including hot air balloons, microlights, private jets and any other unauthorised air transport will be banned from flying during the lock down period.

The increased security will see the RAF running the air traffic control systems across London in five weeks' time until the end of the Games, alongside civilian air traffic controllers.

Paul Hoskins said: "I think it's the biggest challenge National Air Traffic Services (Nats) has ever faced.

"The Ministry Of Defence is tasked with managing security airspace.

"My observation is that they have done this sort of thing before. It has just never happened over London. We've never seen that size of operation over the top of London."

It was also revealed that the severe security restrictions may cause traffic build up at the airport and that any disruption caused by the Olympics may mean planes will fly throughout the night.

During the Olympics 500,000 visitors will arrive into the UK by air - 70,000 will be people connected to the Olympic Games, while 20,000 will be accredited media from across the world.

There will also be 3,000 additional business aviation flights and 150 flights carrying heads of states.

Paul Hoskins added: "Security restrictions that require airspace to be sterilised then obviously there is an increased risk and any security response may deliver service issues."