Growth of Arabian Gulf airports, which are in the midst of multi-billion dollar airport expansions to handle 450 million passengers by 2020, are grappling with mitigating airspace bottlenecks. These airports are increasingly looking towards innovative technology and solutions.
The civil aviation authorities in the region are looking for more effective Air Traffic Management (ATM) by introducing more air corridors and other technology-driven initiatives.
One factor is accelerating growth in aircraft movements in the Middle East, which according to ICAO, IATA and ACI is witnessing a rapid aviation growth, far above global average rate. The UAE airports are projected to have 1.62 million aircraft movements by 2030, while the overall Middle East region will witness 2.3 m aircraft movements in 2025. The ICAO predicts a 5.2% annual growth in regional air traffic until 2030.
Middle East carriers are set to spend US$450 billion on 2,520 aircraft by 2030, taking the number of passenger aircraft from 1,060 to 2,710, an increase of 160%. Emirates Airlines alone is aiming at 70 m passengers in 2020.
Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director general of UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said: “To improve the system many other areas have to be collaboratively improved such as airport design and operations. We are working to improve ATM efficiency in the region through an airspace enhancement and restructuring programme.”
The ICAO says airspace to the northern part of Bahrain Flight Information Region (FIR) continued to be the busiest and most complex airspace, while the northern and eastern part of the Muscat FIR is also very complex along with the airspace in the HIL in Jeddah/Riyadh FIR. There also delays and bottlenecks in UAE’s Flight Information Region (FIR) due to heavy air traffic. In order to effectively manage air traffic in the UAE skies through to 2030, AirbusProsky has made 53 recommendations.
Ibrahim Ahli, director of Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS), said: “The importance of managing the UAE airspace efficiently is obvious, but the importance of harmonization with adjacent (and beyond) states is imperative. Without cooperation from these states, our growth will be hampered, and severe departures- as well as arrivals delays are inevitable.”
The UAE airspace system currently handles approximately 600,000 movements a year. By 2025 it needs to accommodate the range of 1.2 m movements.