Sochi, Russia is currently in high gear – in terms of hotel and infrastructure construction – preparing for the upcoming February 7-23, 2014 Winter Games. For business aircraft operators planning to attend the Games, it’s important to initiate the flight-planning process as early as possible. Begin working with your 3rd-party provider and ground handler in advance in order to take advantage of best available options. Below is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Know Winter Games venue details
During February of 2014, 98 events in 15 winter sports will be held. Construction, currently underway, involves building new sports venues and transport infrastructure within the Sochi area. A new Olympic Park will be constructed by the Black Sea, with most of the Games venues clustered around this area.
2. Note area considerations
The city center of Sochi and Olympic Park are about 21 miles from the airport, Sochi (URSS). There is a train – the Aero Express – operating between the airport and downtown every two to three hours. Public taxis are available, but be aware that drivers usually don’t speak English, and there may be payment issues to consider as they may only accept cash. For this reason, it’s recommended to consider prepaid transportation (car with driver) for travel between the airport and your hotel. Note that city and road infrastructure is poor at this time, and there may be delays in traveling into the city. The Sochi area is currently experiencing a lot of Winter Games-related construction activity, and there may be isolated security considerations due, in part, to high numbers of migrant workers involved with local construction.
3. Take into account aircraft parking considerations
Aircraft parking is set up through the ramp coordinator with prior arrangement, and it’s recommended that requests be submitted as soon as schedule is known. A follow-me cart will guide you to your assigned aircraft parking spot upon arrival. Note that planeside pickup/drop off may be possible at URSS with prior approval and at least 72 hours’ notification. Vehicles will only be permitted to access the ramp after Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) clearance is completed.
4. Aircraft parking will be restricted during the Winter Games period
Note that general aviation will not be permitted to park at URSS during the 2014 Winter Games period unless the operator is carrying, or involved with, government officials, Olympic-committee members or qualified sponsors. All other operations will need to drop and go at URSS. Closest available alternate airport, for parking, is Krasnodar (URKK), about 120 nautical miles (NM) away. URKK is a 24-hour airport of entry (AOE) with airport slots required (+/- 15-minute deviation).
5. Know assorted operating restrictions
Information on airport slots, accreditation and other operational requirements will be available in the near future. Takeoff/landing procedures will be somewhat restricted due to mountains north and northeast of the airport. Note that strong cross winds have potential to cause safety concerns with takeoffs/landings. URSS has two concrete runways, with the longest being 9,482 feet, and taxiways have a width of 164 feet. While high season for Sochi is normally July and August, there are no peak hours of scheduled airline activity to avoid.
6. Special considerations
There are cabotage considerations to take into account when traveling within Russia. Cabotage may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, but it’s always best to check with your 3rd-party provider regarding options and restrictions. The good news, for Stage 2 operators, is that there are currently no noise restrictions in place for either URSS or URKK. Note that even though Georgia is nearby and may have aircraft parking and hotel availability, operators may not travel directly between Georgia and Russia due to inter-government restrictions.
7. Additional reading
See our previous article: Winter Games 2014: Sochi, Russia, Welcomes Business Aviation.
Many operators heading to URSS during the Winter Games period will be repositioning and parking elsewhere. It’s best to begin evaluating available parking alternates now. Some operators may choose to relocate outside of Russia, after dropping passengers at URSS, while others will prefer to remain as close as possible within the region.