28 May 2009
Airspace restrictions around 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup host cities will be tightly enforced as part of a raft of measures to ensure that the country’s skies are safe throughout the tournament.
Briefing journalists in Johannesburg on Wednesday, South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) chief executive Colin Jordaan said that all aircraft flying within an 80km radius of Johannesburg, Pretroria, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg would require prior approval before taking to the skies.
The restrictions, put in place for security reasons, will apply from midnight on 13 June to midnight on 28 June. They will not affect essential services such as emergency helicopters.
An eight-kilometre-radius restriction will also be imposed around the stadiums hosting matches during the tournament. “No unauthorised pilots will be allowed to fly over the venues two hours before the start of each game and one hour after the final whistle,” Jordaan said.
He said he was satisfied that sufficient measures had been put in place to handle increased air traffic, thanks to a partnership with the Transport Department, the Air Traffic and Navigation Services Company, SA Police Service and SA Air Force (SAAF).
According to Brigadier-General Les Lombard from the SAAF, several exercises have been conducted over the past few months to test the state of the country’s readiness.
The most recent exercise was conducted in March, when over 7 000 flight authorisations were completed over a two-day period with minimal complaints received from the aviation community.
The exercise “was very similar to what will be the real event during the Confederations Cup,” Lombard said, adding that they had received good cooperation from the aviation community.
Lombard said the final exercises to test the readiness of the country’s major airports would take place next week.
Jordaan said that while passenger traffic was expected to increase dramatically leading up to and during the event, as soccer fans and players arrive in the country and travel around, chartered flights were expected to be minimal.
He said notices spelling out what was required of them before flying had been issued to pilots, and officials would be stationed at all airfields to assist pilots needing authorisation to take to the air.
Looking ahead, Jordaan said the aviation authority was expecting about 400 000 international fans to visit South Africa during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“This means there will be major challenges as far as aviation is concerned, because there will be 20 co-coordinated airports – something which is not there for [the 2009 Confederations Cup”.
At the same time, the Confederations Cup “will be a true test of South Africa’s capabilities and readiness to host the world’s biggest soccer extravaganza, the 2010 Fifa World Cup,” Jordaan said.