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Aircraft Face Rules Near Olympics

June 8, 2001

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ News helicopters, small aircraft, blimps and hot air balloons are expected to jam the skies during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

With so much air traffic, security planners are working on a plan to restrict air space over Olympic venues while keeping skies open for pilots who have a legitimate reason to go up.

``This whole process is to allow people to fly where they need to, with some restrictions,″ said James Pyle, Olympic flight safety planner for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Officials with the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command met with a handful of pilots Thursday to alert them to the special certification that will be needed to fly in Olympic air space.

Several more meetings are scheduled before the Olympics, which run Feb. 8-24.

Crew members must submit to criminal background checks. Only pilots with legitimate business, such as TV news helicopters, will be allowed in the zones.

Fifty to 100 news, police, fire and medical helicopters could dot the airspace during the games.

The venues, stretching from Ogden to Provo and from Kearns to Park City, will be protected by a circle of restricted air space of up to three miles in diameter.

As in other high-profile events, such as national political conventions, pilots cannot land in venues.

Restrictions will be even tighter when President Bush attends the opening ceremonies at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, and again when Vice President Dick Cheney closes the Olympics.

Bad weather, such as high winds or blinding snow, could cause additional restrictions.

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