Winter Olympics A Trial For Canadian Aviators

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When the 2010 Winter Olympics launch in Vancouver next February, associated flight restrictions, termed by locals as the Olympic Rings, will keep many local GA operators grounded for up to eight weeks, with losses of up to $5 million, CanWest News reported on Tuesday. "We don't dispute the fact there is an issue of security, we just find this is very long," said John McKenna, CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, which represents about 200 operators. Flight schools will have to ground students, passengers for charter flights and floatplanes will be diverted to sites with security gates, sightseeing and banner-towing flights will be restricted, and more. About two dozen small airports are affected, including several just across the border in the U.S. The restrictions will last from Jan. 29 to March 24, to accommodate both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and will be enforced by U.S. and Canadian fighter jets. ATAC is asking the government to compensate the affected businesses. But meanwhile, the operators of the Official Olympics Airport at Vancouver are thrilled that they can expect an additional 231,000 passengers during the event.

"We want every passenger to have a great experience in our airport as their first and last impressions of our city, province and country," said Paul Levy, of the Vancouver Airport Authority. The airport will benefit from upgrades to its snow removal and de-icing equipment. March 1, the day after the end of the Olympics, is expected to be the busiest day ever for the airport, with 39,000 people and 77,000 pieces of luggage departing. Pilots who may be considering flying into the area during the Olympics can find flight-planning information at the NavCanada Web site.