UAE Taps Airbus ProSky for Airspace Redesign

 - February 4, 2013, 1:15 PM
H.E. Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority director general (left), and François Cognard, Airbus Middle East vice president of sales, celebrate the signing of an agreement to study UAE airspace restructuring. (Photo: Airbus ProSky)

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and Airbus ProSky, the air traffic management (ATM) subsidiary of Airbus, have signed an agreement to study a restructuring of UAE airspace intended to improve air traffic flows in the strategic crossroads region. The agreement calls for Airbus ProSky to deliver a “comprehensive report” this summer.

The signing ceremony took place at the Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Center in Abu Dhabi on January 28, marking the start of the first phase of the airspace restructuring, the parties said. Under the terms of the deal, Airbus ProSky will analyze historical data and meet with airspace users, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and airports to identify measures to improve airspace operations.

“It is important to seek continuous enhancement of UAE’s airspace to better serve the increasing air traffic movement,” said H.E. Saif Al Suwaidi, GCAA director general. “We will work closely with Airbus ProSky in the next few months to understand what changes we need to bring to our airspace and ATM systems to better serve airspace users.”

The Middle East as a destination and a waypoint between Europe, Asia and Africa saw international and domestic passenger traffic grow last year by 16.8 percent, the largest increase among all regions, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. In its 2012 traffic report released on January 31, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said international passenger traffic grew by 6 percent worldwide, driven by Middle East airlines with 15.4-percent growth. IATA predicts that the UAE will rank as the eighth largest market for international passengers in 2016.

The UAE controls some 120,000 square km (46,332 square miles) of airspace and hosts 35 international air corridors, according to the GCAA. More than half of the airspace consists of aerial exclusion zones restricted to military use. “To compensate for this shortage and the rapid growth of aircraft movements in UAE airspace, the GCAA has heavily invested in adoption of new technologies to optimize use of available airspace capacity,” the federal regulatory agency and ANSP states in its 2011-2013 Strategic Plan.

Much of that investment took the form of the $82 million Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Center, which officially opened in November 2009. The GCAA describes the center as the busiest and most advanced ATM facility in the Middle East. Its area control center carries the capacity to accommodate air traffic growth for 20 years, or a total traffic volume of two million movements.