MEBAA Convention News

Dubai World Center marches on to world airport preeminence

 - December 6, 2010, 11:07 PM

The inauguration in June of Dubai World Central's Al Maktoum International Airport marked the completion of the project's Phase 1 and another significant milestone in Dubai's pursuit of air transport preeminence.

HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said the event served as "a timely reminder to regional and international stakeholders" of the strength of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed's vision. And there is no denying that Dubai World Central is a heroic project even by Dubai's standards, a 54-square-mile aerotropolis of industry, commerce, recreation and human habitation centered on the world's biggest airport.

Intended to support the emirate's aviation, tourism and logistics requirements through 2050 and beyond, and expected to cost more than $32 billion by the time it is complete in the mid-2020s, DWC rings the airport with a series of clustered zones: Logistics City (big enough to handle 12 million metric tons of cargo annually, with a staff village for 50,000 workers), Commercial City (850 towers of up to 45 floors providing employment for 225,000 people and housing for 4.5 million residents), Residential City (accommodation for 240,000 residents in luxury apartment blocks up to 10 floors high and a workforce of 20,000), Golf City (three 18-hole courses, hotels and 2,500 freehold homes), the Dubai Trade Center Jebel Ali (residential and mixed-use development plus a 50-acre exhibition precinct) and Aviation City.

Located between the airport and Golf City on the south side of the development, Aviation City will be the home of corporate aviation, with a heliport, executive jet center and extensive general aviation support facilities. It will also host a maintenance, repair and overhaul center (the worlds biggest, naturally), aerospace manufacturing and associated industries, aviation support services, design and consultancy, research and development, a zone for aviation training and education, and the associated offices and commercial premises. And, of course, it includes a dedicated air show site complete with exhibition halls, static display ramp, parking and dedicated access roads.

The airport itself will have five 14,750-foot runways rather than the six originally planned, but is still designed to be the world's biggest, with four terminals handling an ultimate capacity of 160 million passengers. The main terminal is scheduled to have an underground baggage handling system capable of handling 240 million bags each year, a daily average of more than 650,000.

Although Emirates earlier this year said it would not move to the new airport until after 2022 rather than in the 2018-2020 time frame targeted initially, Dubai Airports' CEO Paul Griffiths remains adamant that the new airport is needed. Dubai International currently has capacity for 2.5 million metric tons of cargo, he said at the opening, but volumes are expected to reach three million metric tons by 2015. "On the passenger side we expect to see numbers skyrocket from the 41 million that passed through Dubai International in 2009 to 98 million by 2020 and 150 million by 2030," he said.

Cargo operators are the airport's first users, though. So far, 19 cargo airlines have signed up to use the facility, with the single runway opened in June and a cargo terminal capable of handling 250,000 metric tons of freight. But general aviation--which in Dubai means mainly private jets-- will certainly be provided for.

"General aviation is an important part of our business," said a spokesman for Dubai Airports. "As congestion increases at Dubai International we will be able to offer general aviation an attractive alternative. DWC is located conveniently to take advantage of Dubai and Abu Dhabi business."

Initially, general aviation operations at DWC will be serviced through a dedicated area of the passenger terminal. It will provide a limousine drop off, dedicated processing of passengers, lounges and airside limousine pickup to transport passengers to the aircraft side. An area of the ramp will be set aside for general aviation and helicopter operations.