Jan. 27, 2014

Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan podcast for tips on flying to Russia while the Olympic games are underway

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on the shores of the Black Sea, present a number of challenges for business aircraft operators, whether they are flying via Part 91 or Part 135 to the event, or are simply in the area on business during the games,. Succeeding in flying to the city will depend on advanced planning, experts said.

Three Things to Know About Getting There

1. Tanker Fuel.

Sochi International Airport normally handles approximately 75 aircraft movements each day. For the duration of the 2014 Winter Olympics, however, the airport will handle approximately 200 movements a day.

“Clients should be aware that the level of service will not be what they’re used to,” said Jerry Banks, manager of the Echo and Large Aircraft Teams and Team Europe at Universal Aviation and Weather in Houston, TX. “There is no fuel farm there, so the airport authority, which is acting as the service provider, is bringing in additional fuel trucks.”

In addition, she noted, most business aircraft will be limited to 30 or 60 minutes on the ground as they offload passengers and prepare to head to their next destination as part of their “drop-and-go” operations.

2. Have Alternative Plans.

With virtually no parking available for general aviation aircraft at Sochi International Airport, Banks strongly suggested having more than one destination for diverting or for parking. Even Istanbul, Turkey, which in its own right is often cited as a challenging destination for business aircraft operators, is being used as an alternate, said Banks.

3. Have the right visa.

“Because most business flights will be of the ‘drop-and-go’ variety, a single-entry visa will likely be insufficient for flight crews,” Banks said. “You’ll need a multi-entry visa.” While the Russian government has promised expedited handling of visa requests, she suggested making both visa and slot applications as early as possible.

Three Things to Know Once on the Ground

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for Americans who are headed to Sochi, telling them to be vigilant about security, although at this point, officials said there are no specific threats related to Americans attending the games. Still, security continues to be an obvious and major concern throughout the Olympic host city, according to Universal Aviation and Weather Security Sales Representative Tracie Jones.

“There is remarkably high security at both Olympic venues,” she said.

Review the State Department travel alert.

1. Have proper ID at all times.

Russian security officials have repeatedly warned that visitors to the Olympics will be stopped multiple times during each day for security checks. “If you don’t have proper identification, you could be detained,” said Jones.

2. Organize trips between Olympic venues.

With events near the shore and in the mountains, Jones said there will be heavy traffic between the two sites, and ground transportation to each venue will likely be crowded. She suggested careful planning between each site, with transportation vouchers purchased in advance whenever possible.

“Also, get an in-depth hotel assessment and route analysis,” she recommended. “Know the risks wherever you are.”

3. Keep a low profile.

Jones suggested U.S. citizens forego wearing patriotic clothing or anything that identifies them by nationality. “If you’re not an athlete, don’t wear anything that identifies you as an American citizen,” she said. “That just adds to the risk in an already high-risk environment.”