CALGARY (CP) - A massive no-fly zone is being established over Kananaskis Country for the G8 summit of world leaders in June. Canadian military officials say the restricted airspace - which runs from southeastern B.C. to the Calgary city limits - will be patrolled by CF-18s prepared to shoot down unauthorized aircraft.
"We don't want anyone to come into this airspace, but if it were to happen, the aircraft could expect to be intercepted and forced down by armed aircraft," said Lt.-Col. Benoit Carrier of the Department of National Defence.
"Since Sept. 11, with some of the security measures put in place, this is not an unlikely scenario."
The no-fly zone will be in effect from June 25 to 28. It's the largest restricted airspace ever authorized by Transport Canada, said spokesman Peter Coyles.
The area affected is a 150-kilometre radius of the wilderness park.
It stretches through Banff National Park into southeastern British Columbia, across to Calgary, up to central Alberta and south to Lethbridge, Alta.
"It seems massive, but in fact it is the minimum we felt we could use," said RCMP Cpl. Jamie Johnston, spokesman for G8 security.
"It's only a matter of a minute or two. We need that time and space to monitor any inbound aerial threat, then we need to identify and challenge it and determine what will our response on the ground be."
The air ban does not include the Calgary International Airport, which falls within the radius.
"Clearly, we couldn't shut down such a major transportation hub," said Johnston.
"We're trying to minimize the impact on people and business. The only people who will really notice a difference will be the pilots, themselves, who are making slight changes to their approach procedures."
Johnston said no one will be allowed into the airspace without prior authorization.
"Even humanitarian flights will have to contact us and get clearance otherwise they too would be challenged - we wouldn't know who they were."
An international security consultant says all rules have changed since last fall's terrorist attacks. Alan Bell says safety concerns in the air will push security costs for Kananaskis into the stratosphere.
"We weren't worried about the air situation before Sept. 11 - now we'll have to have aircraft patrolling, if not all the time, at least when the VIPs are meeting," said Bell, of GlobeRisk Holdings, which provides security to mining, oil and gas companies.
"I would expect this will end up being one of the most expensive G8 summits," he said, adding it's far more difficult to protect someone in Kananaskis than at a conference in downtown Toronto.
"How close do you have to be to fire a single missile, for instance? You don't have to be on the perimeter fence, you can be on one of the mountains around Kananaskis."
The RCMP has primary responsibility for securing the wilderness area and will be drawing on officers from across Canada.
Thousands of military personnel - from ground troops to helicopter and CF-18 pilots to support staff - will also be involved in patrols.
Military spokesman Carrier says the wilderness terrain of Kananaskis creates special challenges for security and surveillance.
"Kananaskis is located in valleys and mountains and brings specific challenges," he said. "If it was located near a large centre where mountains would not interfere, you would see traffic a lot easier, but the topography is probably the biggest challenge."
Businesses that are impacted by the restrictions - such as flying schools at the small airports in the area - can apply for compensation to the G8 summit office, said spokesman Michael O'Shaughnessy.
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