Al Bateen expands to IFR service

 - August 31, 2010, 9:55 AM

Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport will commission its new instrument landing system and GNSS/VOR/DME-based precision approach this month, ending its VFR-only limitation. The former military air base now lays claim to being the Middle East’s only dedicated business aviation airport and further redevelopment is planned as it prepares to double its annual movements to more than 12,000 by 2014.

The installation of precision landing aids will clear the way for far more operators to use the airport, especially those covered by insurance policies that prohibit VFR operations.

Foremost among Al Bateen’s advantages is the fact that it is open around the clock and is barely a 10-minute drive from the city center. With a taxiing time of less than two minutes from landing to the ramp, passengers can be assured of an extremely swift ground transfer, with cars allowed to collect from the ramp area. The airport is even closer to locations such as the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and the Al Bateen Wharf Redevelopment. These are just two of a dozen or more new developments being pursued under Abu Dhabi’s ambitious 2030 masterplan.

Already open at Al Bateen is a new executive terminal that features two sizable lounges, plus a meeting room, and space for catering and for waiting drivers. Customs and immigration clearance is currently handled in the new executive terminal, but the government-owned Al Bateen’s owner, the government-backed Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), is making arrangements for these formalities to be completed at aircraft to allow for even faster processing.

Facilities for pilots, including a flight-planning space, are currently provided in the old terminal building next door, but work has already begun to provide a purpose-built facility for flight crew. “We want to be sure that we can provide the crew with their own full concierge services and we will be ready to do this by year-end,” said Mohammed Al Bulooki, Al Bateen Executive Airport v-p.

There are currently three ­airport-owned hangars at Al Bateen, and space is available to accommodate visiting aircraft. The airport management is in discussion with existing and prospective tenants that could see them adding further hangar capacity. For example, executive charter and aircraft management company Falcon Aviation Services has already built its own hangar. Other based operators at Al Bateen include Abu Dhabi Aviation, Al Jaber Aviation, Empire Aviation, Luxury Air Jet, Prestige Jet, Royal Helite Helicopters and XoJet.

Al Jaber Aviation is set to be Al Bateen’s largest based operator since it is in the process of receiving 21 new business aircraft that it ordered in a $1.2 billion investment announced in November 2008. The new fleet will include an Embraer Legacy 600, five Lineage 1000s, eight Legacy 450/500s and up to half a dozen Airbus A318 Elites and ACJs.

As part of a plan to establish a business aviation park at Al Bateen, ADAC wants to see technical representatives or service centers for every major manufacturer located at the airport. Falcon Aviation Services already has an engineering operation at the airport, specializing in the Eurocopters and AgustaWestlands that it operates in its own fleet. ADAC also is keen to attract other aviation businesses, such as training, to the airport.

Abu Dhabi Airport Services, the main handling agent at Abu Dhabi International Airport, currently provides all handling services. By early next year, ADAC intends to have created its own FBO team, staffed by people with extensive training and experience in meeting the needs of business aircraft operators. Other planned improvements include the construction of an airport hotel and modernization of local access roads.

Landing fees at Al Bateen range from AED 185 ($52.86) for an aircraft weighing up to 5,000 kg (11,022 pounds) to AED 920 ($262.86) for those above 50,000 kg (110,229 pounds). Hourly parking charges also vary according to aircraft size.
All fuel is provided by Adnoc.

Al Bateen was built in the 1960s as Abu Dhabi’s first airport. The new Abu Dhabi International Airport, 20 miles outside the city center, was opened in 1982. Al Bateen continued to be used as a military base until 2008. It was granted a new civil airport in June 2009 and has been under redevelopment since then.