May 22 2013 Latest news:
Alistair Kleebauer, Senior reporter
Thursday, April 26, 2012
RAF helicopters which will be based in Ilford during the Olympic Games will take test flights in the area from this week.
The two Puma helicopters, which will police the airspace around the Olympic Park in east London against terrorist threats and “unauthorised flights”, are going to be based at the Territorial Army (TA) Centre in Gordon Road, Ilford.
They are taking part in about six “familiarisation” flights from the base ahead of a national exercise starting on May 2 which will involve further test flights.
The helicopters, which can travel at up to 160mph, will operate from the base until May 10 as part of the exercise.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has posted leaflets to residents in nearby streets providing further details about the flights, with army chiefs promising to “minimise disruption”.
Residents are also being invited to meet the helicopter crews and view the aircraft at the base on May 4 (3pm to 7pm) and May 7 (3pm to 5pm).
Following May 10, the helicopters, from RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, will return to the TA base on July 12, staying there during the Olympic and Paralympic Games and leaving no later than September 16.
They will be supported by a crew from 33 Squadron, RAF Benson, and a total of 90 people will live and work at the site including communications, maintenance and catering staff.
The helicopters, described as “the most suitable to respond quickly to potential unauthorised flights” will return to their RAF base every three to five days for maintenance checks and will be replaced, one at a time, by other helicopters from RAF Benson.
The MoD says the change-overs will take place between 9am and 5pm.
The MoD acknowledges that there will be noise during take-offs and landings but “the aircraft will climb quickly to a height which will reduce the noise levels to the minimum possible levels”.
Wilson Chowdhry, who lives 10m from the base, said the helicopters’ stay in Ilford is not “overly disconcerting”.
He said: “I understand the military has to be involved and I think residents respect the fact that anything they do is for [residents’] security and the country’s.”
Fencing around the site will be improved to ensure objects from the site are not blown into neighbouring properties by the helicopters’ “downwash”.
Gardens adjacent to the sports pitch will experience gusts when the aircraft land and take off.
There will also be daily deliveries of fresh food and regular deliveries of fuel which will be “managed to reduce the impact on local roads”.
Army staff will answer questions about their role during the visit days and residents must bring a passport or driving licence and proof of residence in Ilford.
Call 07879 603506 to request a call from an MoD staff member for further information or email LONDIST-MoDOlympicsEnquiries@mod.uk.