Nov. 27, 2013

For operators planning flights to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, it’s critical to start making arrangements well in advance, according to NBAA’s Air Traffic Services (ATS).

“Even experienced international travelers familiar with this region may face challenges with special security procedures and airport restrictions,” said John Kosak, air traffic management specialist for NBAA ATS. “We strongly recommend operators work with a third-party flight planning service or a local handler.”

Sochi is located on Russia’s mountainous coast along the Black Sea, and with the Olympic Games scheduled there for Feb. 7 to 23, and the Paralympic Games slated for March 7 to 16, many of these special procedures will be in effect for the entire winter season, beginning on Jan. 1 and continuing through April 30.

Arrival slots and landing permits will be required at Sochi International Airport (URSS), and parking will be highly restricted – only available to flights carrying government officials, Olympic Committee members or qualified sponsors.

“The majority of business aircraft flights to Sochi International during the Games will be drop-and-go operations,” said Jerri Banks, team manager for ELATE Teams at Universal Weather & Aviation. “With your landing permit, you’ll be assigned a two-hour window on the ground. Operators need to be flexible, because the window they’re assigned may not be the window they requested.”

With parking restricted, nearly all operators will need to utilize an alternate airport. The official alternate for Sochi is Krasnodar International (URKK), but only 50 parking spaces are available on that airfield.

“When you look at nearby airports, parking at the Russian alternates is going to fill up very quickly,” said Banks. “We’ve been designing flight plans for many of our customers that have them parking at airports in Kiev, Istanbul or Athens, which is the farthest [of the alternates], and only a 90-minute flight from Sochi.”

Except for flights carrying government officials, no customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) services will be available to business aircraft at Sochi International, so most business aircraft flights will need to enter Russia through an approved airport-of-entry (AOE). Krasnodar International is an AOE, as are several nearby airports, but any Russian airport with CIQ services for business aviation should be acceptable.

During the Olympics, Sochi International is expected to see more than 200 business aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) per day, more than 70 times the typical traffic at the airport, according to Banks.

“They’ve been giving us assurances that tower and ground crews will be able to accommodate this increase in traffic, but operators might see some delays,” said Banks. “Ramps services, already limited at URSS, are also going to be in very high demand.”

There is no underground fuel pumping system at URSS, and only three fuel trucks will be serving the entire airfield, said Banks. “We highly recommend business aircraft carry enough fuel to hold in the air, in case of delays, and fly to their next destination without uplifting [fuel] at URSS.”

Fuel, de-icing and other ramp services should be requested well in advance.

“We’re urging our customers to give plenty of advance notice and be flexible,” said Banks.

For up-to-date information on operations to and around Sochi, review NBAA’s Sochi 2014 Olympics resource page.