Helicopters Magazine

Olympic Breaking Point

November 19, 2009  By Melissa Damota

pattersonyvrNov. 19. 2009 – People may take their time getting to Vancouver for the Olympics, but once the Games are over everyone wants to leave at the same time.

Nov. 19. 2009 – People may take their time getting to Vancouver for the Olympics, but once the Games are over everyone wants to leave at the same time. That’s the message from a press conference at YVR on November 17th as the airport authority, Air Canada and VANOC joined forces to give an overview of their operational plans for the Olympic period. When you get past the mutual admiration society the three have created, it becomes apparent that YVR will be pushed to the breaking point to meet its Olympic obligations.

Brett Patterson, YVR Director of Airside Operations.


Paul Levy, YVR’s VP of 2010 Planning, and Don Ehrenholz, VP of Airport Operations, presented the numbers that YVR is working to. From working with airport authorities in Sidney, Salt Lake City and Turin, it became apparent that when the Olympics are over, everyone wants to leave at once. Historically, the busiest travel day is the day after the closing ceremonies. For Vancouver, that will be March 1st, when an anticipated 39,000 people pass through YVR, along with 77,000 pieces of luggage. YVR’s busiest day to date was in August 2008 when 26,000 people passed through with 29,200 checked bags. For a general rule of thumb, airlines calculate 1.6 pieces of checked baggage for each passenger. Olympic athletes average 7 pieces of baggage, often over-sized and awkwardly shaped.

Air Canada 767 de-icing demo
by AeroMAG.


YVR snow clearing equipment.


Lisa Pierce, Air Canada’s Senior Director – Olympic Airport Interface, spoke of the planning the airline has put in place to ensure a “robust operation network-wide even in the face of the unexpected.” Air Canada is identifying Olympic team travel around the world to ensure that the airline has the people and equipment in place throughout their entire network to meet the challenge.

YVR is creating a “virtual YVR” at the athlete villages in Vancouver and Whistler to expedite travel arrangements for Olympic athletes and team officials, while minimizing the impact of the increased passenger load on other airport clients. For a period at the end of February through early March, athletes and officials will be able to check-in 24 hours in advance of their flight at terminals in the village, allowing their baggage to be moved and screened independently of them.  On peak days, these Olympic passengers will be processed through a special Sea Island Remote Terminal (SIRT), adjacent to the existing international terminal, to minimize the impact on day to day traffic in the main terminal.

Security will be paramount. Airport authorities will only acknowledge that at some point before the Olympics, hundreds of people from a number of government agencies will take over responsibility for security from the current private security guards staffing the gates and patrolling the concourses. No other information was forthcoming.

Vancouver Airport Authority will be responsible for managing the reservation system for all take-offs and landings at YVR, Boundary Bay and Abbotsford during the 2010 Winter Games period from January 29 until March 24. As many as 300 aircraft a day are expected to use the Airport South facilities and extra screening units have been installed to accommodate the increased volume. All aircraft traveling from airports where security screening is not available will be required to go through screening before landing at YVR. The airport authority is working with airports as far away as Boise, Idaho and Reno, Nevada to ensure aircraft will be screened properly.

YVR has beefed up their snow-clearing capabilities to avoid a repeat of last year’s closed runways and cancelled flights caused by record snowfalls. An expanded fleet of equipment will allow both runways to remain operational, even if last years snowfall is repeated. De-icing operations have been streamlined by contracting with AeroMAG of Montreal to provide a centralized service available to all airlines, instead of leaving individual airlines responsible for their own de-icing arrangements.


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