During the NATO Summit, the Vilnius Airport had become probably the most secure civilian airport in the world. The joint efforts of the specialists of the Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga Airports and a total of more than 1,000 professionals from various authorities and countries were aimed at ensuring the safe and smooth landing and take-off of more than 50 special aircraft as well as the reception and farewelling of several thousand important guests.
According to the calculations of Lithuanian Airports, during the peak of the aircraft traffic, planes (commercial and carrying delegations) took off and landed at the Vilnius Airport every 3–4 minutes.
The Kaunas Airport also received more aeroplanes than usual next to the regular commercial flight traffic. Here, the constant receipt and take-offs of delegation aircraft also took place. In addition, the airspace at the Kaunas Airport was not closed, therefore all processes took place continuously throughout the days of the Summit.
A significant number of the NATO Summit’s guest planes were large aircraft, categorized as codes E and F which usually visit our airports less often, such as “the flying presidential palaces” Air Force One carrying the President of the United States (and accompanying special aircraft) or an even larger Boeing 747-8I that flew the President of South Korea. At the Kaunas Airport, one of the most exclusive aircraft received was the Japanese delegation’s Boeing 777.
“During the active preparation for the event that lasted for more than half a year, every step and detail was carefully thought through, and many processes were aligned and coordinated to ensure the highest level of security and efficiency of the operations. The Vilnius Airport received all the scheduled aircraft, including even the largest ones. Not only that – commercial flights were also conducted in both Vilnius and Kaunas until the scheduled temporary closure of the airspace. No, having seen off the last delegations, we can state that no significant problems arose, and we passed this most important test through cooperation,” said Vidas Kšanas, Interim CEO at Lithuanian Airports.
Long before the event, taking into account the intensive traffic and the parameters of the special planes, the airport runways were upgraded, the space was prepared for several hundred limousines and other vehicles, and other technical processes were coordinated.
“Although the main burden fell on the airports of Vilnius and Kaunas when welcoming and seeing off the NATO delegations, the Palanga Airport’s team was also actively involved in the process. The security experts of the Partner States who cooperated with us stated that they had noticed and felt the highest level of professionalism at every step,” said Kšanas.
The NATO Summit, held for the first time in Lithuania, took place on July 11-12 in Vilnius. It was the largest event in the history of Lithuania, attended by dozens of foreign delegations (up to 3,000 guests) and approximately 2,000 representatives of non-governmental organizations and the international media community.
During the event, a special centralized process management centre was established at the Vilnius Airport, in the operation of which the airport specialists, the aircraft ground services “Litcargus” and “Baltic Ground Services” (BGS), the State Border Guard Service, the Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces, the security specialists from foreign countries, and the representatives of the company “Oro navigacija” were directly involved. Different operational scenarios were prepared and discussed in advance. Special air defence systems, drone monitoring and neutralization equipment, snipers, and other security measures were in operation at the Vilnius and Kaunas Airports.