MEBAA Convention News

More Middle East Commercial Traffic Could Hamper Bizav

 - December 9, 2014, 6:30 AM

The headlong growth of scheduled air transport in the Middle East is intensifying the challenges facing the region’s air traffic controllers and the priorities they must set themselves as business aviation goes in search of the recognition it needs to expand and prosper.

Ahmed Al Jallaf, assistant director general of the UAE’s Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre, told the MEBAA conference this week that about 49 percent of the UAE’s airspace is set aside for military operations, leaving only just over half of the airspace for a growing raft of civil operations. The Middle East has various large portions of military airspace and, in his view, there is a strong need to implement the flexible use of airspace concept.

In May 2013, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) submitted its MID (Middle East) ATM Enhancement Program (MAEP) proposal to ICAO. This called for a regional airspace collaborative solutions by implementing harmonized and joint projects to overcome the region’s increasing difficulties due to what it referred to as fragmented airspace structures, high-levels of tactical intervention by ATC, choke points, traffic bunching and queuing, and reliance on conventional technologies. It cited ICAO statistics showing that Middle East annual traffic growth rates, led by the Gulf, at 5.2 percent, lag only Asia-Pacific (6.3 percent) and Latin America (5.8 percent) in terms of world growth.

“Airspace in the region is extremely busy and congested. Continued investments in the airspace and airports systems and technologies will allow the operators to have much more effective operations,” said Al Jallaf. “We have realized that to accommodate the growth and the continued expansion we need to work together with our partners to ensure safe and efficient air traffic operations.”

In the presentation submitted by GCAA, UAE traffic forecasts showed that in the period 2010-15, daily movements will increase 6.8 percent, 4.8 percent in 2015-20 and 3.7 percent in the period 2020-30. “The total number of flights within the UAE flight information region will increase from 740,585 flights in year 2012 to approximately 1,859,000 flights in year 2030 based on the UAE studies. The current Middle East airspace structure will be unable to handle the sustained forecasted traffic growth within the UAE,” the GCAA presentation to ICAO concluded.

“Business aviation is and will always remain a main component of air traffic operations in general. It is up to the business aviation operators how they fit themselves in the system. From an air traffic control point of view, priority is given specifically to certain criteria: aircraft in emergency, aircraft in hijack, etc. as per ICAO standards,” said Al Jallaf.

“With regard to business aviation within normal status operations, the current issue is sometimes the varied performance of the aircraft, and how to create capacity,” he continued. “The performance of super jets like the Airbus A380 varies significantly with specific light or medium category [business] aircraft. At the end of the day I see all sorts of operations faring very well not only in the UAE but in the region.”

Today, the UAE sees 2,300 movements per day, with 5,400 predicted for 2030. Looking ahead to the implementation of MAEP, Al Jallaf concluded, “The importance is it will encourage harmonization and collaboration to ensure safe and efficient operations and enhance ATM capacity.”