​Hosting a VIP Event at Silverstone: F1 Racing Cars, Helicopters and Celebrities

Every year we host a VIP Lounge at Silverstone during the British Grand Prix. Our Operations Team is run by Alana and her blog below gives you a glimpse into what the long weekend entails…

It has been a week since we returned from hosting our VIP event at the British Grand Prix and once again it was a vibrant success, not only on the track but also in the hospitality lounge and heliport.

When you are working in-between the busiest heliport in the world and an F1 Grand Prix not only is a privilege to be in such a position, but the adrenaline is running all weekend.

Flying in to Silverstone by Helicopter

There were around 1600 helicopter movements on Sunday alone, that’s 800 flights in and the same amount out.

It is a magnificent sight to see and when there was a break in track action many of our guests found it just as fun to watch the helicopters in their holding patterns, flying in to land at the five helipads and then making a swift departure so the next flight can land.

Agusta 109 Power: G-FVIP
Agusta 109 Power: G-FVIP
AS355 Twin Squirrel: G-PASH
AS355 Twin Squirrel: G-PASH

And this also gave our guests the opportunity to spot some famous faces: Prince Harry walked past with Jackie Stewart, Kimi Raikkonen and Roman Grosjean also flew in and Jude Law caused one or two hearts to flutter.

There was a lovely selection of guests visiting us each day and we treated them to the best experience possible. But the combination of helicopters, F1 and the weather brings its own challenges.

Juggling Helicopters and Passengers

We had 11 helicopters on call each day, and these were either flying in from Battersea Heliport in London, or from further afield. Turweston Airfield was used as a base and most of them are lined up in the photo opposite.

Our fleet of helicopters parked at Turweston Airfield

Our fleet of helicopters parked at Turweston Airfield

The biggest problem we faced, as far as time and schedules was concerned, was the accident during Sunday’s race when Kimi Raikkonen had a horrendous spill and the race stopped for an hour.

Thankfully he was safe but the resulting clean up meant that the chequered flag would be lowered when the first flight was due to depart.

As you might be aware, all slots at Silverstone were fully booked, our clients had their allocated place, which meant that each helicopter could only be on the ground for 3 minutes. No matter what was happening on the circuit they would have to leave at the designated time.

Naturally frustrating for both parties as we want our clients to have the best experience possible but when you are running what is basically a mini airport, you have to stick to the time slots.

Luckily the group that left first were just about to board the helicopter when Lewis Hamilton crossed the line. They might have missed the trackside moment but I am sure they would have seen the celebrations from above as they flew away.

Chauffeur Driven Luggage

As with all busy and successful events there are moments when your organisational creativity is stretched to the limit and for us that involved 100kg of luggage.

It might not seem a lot, but when your helicopter already has five passengers there isn’t much room for that amount of baggage, plus the weight adds to the fuel consumption.

The other complication was that the party was flying from Battersea Heliport to Silverstone and then on to Heathrow, via a chauffeur driven car, after touching down at Denham Airfield.

At moments like this Atlas’ Operations Team swings into action and once every option had been analysed, we decided the bags should be chauffeur driven to Denham, where the drivers could to liaise with each other and the bags were guaranteed safe passage

Our party could then continue their journey, knowing their luggage was being looked after and they would be re-united with it after a day of F1 entertainment.

A Podium Finish

Overall a great success. Happy clients, who had a great day out through Friday breakfast to Sunday tea, Lewis Hamilton taking the trophy and Jenson Button claiming a close fourth.

As you can imagine the Silverstone event is a long and exciting weekend for the staff and it takes a couple of days to recover, but one interesting thing we’ve noticed was that we didn’t have the usual post Silverstone headache.

These headaches aren’t due to an over consumption of champagne but the lowering of noise from the F1 engines.

Our VIP Lounge is very close to the track and the recent changes to engine specifications have turned the ‘scream’ of the engines into a howl and although F1 fans have rightly complained about the lack of noise, it gets the thumbs up from us!

The Silverstone weekend is one of the highlights in our working calendar and we hope you are able to experience our VIP lounge next year. As you can see, this year it wasn’t a ‘headache’ and if you want to put your name down for 2015 please contact us via this page.

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