Dubai Air­ports chief ex­ec­u­tive says re­struc­tur­ing will al­low for si­mul­ta­ne­ous de­par­tures and ar­rivals to boost air­craft move­ments

The National - News - - BUSINESS - SARAH TOWNSEND

The UAE will cre­ate mul­ti­ple “gates in the sky” to al­low for si­mul­ta­ne­ous flight ar­rivals and de­par­tures, un­der its airspace re­struc­tur­ing project due to com­plete next month, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Dubai Air­ports said.

“At present, there are on av­er­age 37 ar­rivals at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port [DXB] per hour, ver­sus 41 de­par­tures per hour, and the high ar­rivals rate is a ma­jor con­straint on our ca­pac­ity – slots are a bit of a chal­lenge,” Paul Grif­fiths said.

“We want to in­crease the num­ber of routes on which air­craft can be flowed into the air­port to join or leave the de­par­ture or ar­rival pat­tern...The UAE airspace re­struc­tur­ing en­vis­ages a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of gates in the sky – around 13 com­pared to very few now – open­ing up to al­low si­mul­ta­ne­ous ar­rivals and de­par­tures.”

This re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of UAE airspace would en­able Dubai Air­ports to op­er­ate “with­out de­lay on an en­hanced ca­pac­ity,” in­creas­ing run­way move­ments, Mr Grif­fiths said, de­clin­ing to give a tar­get for per­cent­age in­crease.

The Gen­eral Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity said last month it aims to com­plete a ma­jor airspace re­struc­tur­ing project by De­cem­ber 7, to “fu­ture-proof” the coun­try’s skies for fore­cast traf­fic growth to 2040. The project has been de­scribed as one of the largest airspace changes yet in the re­gion.

It comes as both Dubai’s Al Mak­toum In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Abu Dhabi In­ter­na­tional Air­port un­dergo ex­pan­sion. DXB is reach­ing ca­pac­ity, with planes some­times de­layed in hold­ing pat­terns be­fore land­ing.

Mr Grif­fiths also wants the project to in­crease op­tions for tran­si­tions be­tween airspace re­gions across the GCC. “Be­cause there’s no point hav­ing the ca­pac­ity if you can’t op­er­ate a re­li­a­bil­ity and punc­tu­al­ity that makes it all work.”

He said he has made it clear to Dubai Air Nav­i­ga­tion Ser­vices that he wants no fur­ther ca­pac­ity at the air­port un­til per­for­mance has im­proved. “I want fewer de­lays and I’m pre­pared to take a ca­pac­ity short­fall to de­liver that as we do not want to of­fer a ser­vice that is not best in class,” Mr Grif­fiths said.

Ul­ti­mately, he wants the GCC to be a sin­gle airspace re­gion like the Euro­pean Union.

The Sin­gle Euro­pean Sky is a Euro­pean Com­mis­sion ini­tia­tive through which the de­sign, man­age­ment and reg­u­la­tion of airspace is co-or­di­nated by the EU, al­low­ing air­craft move­ments to be sched­uled across the whole re­gion.

How­ever, ef­forts to im­ple­ment a sim­i­lar ini­tia­tive for the GCC have stalled amid the cur­rent re­gional po­lit­i­cal ten­sions.

“What we’d ul­ti­mately like to see is a co­or­di­nated airspace across the re­gion,” Mr Grif­fiths said. “It’s im­pos­si­ble to get more ef­fi­ciency out of the airspace un­less you have an au­to­mated way of sched­ul­ing all the move­ments across the en­tire re­gion.

“It’s taken years for [the EC] to get a grip on all of the Euro­pean aero­space to make it more ef­fec­tive. The dif­fi­culty we have is that we don’t have euro-style con­trol; ev­ery coun­try in the re­gion has its own airspace man­age­ment and that’s not very ef­fi­cient.

“If we could get ev­ery coun­try to co­op­er­ate on open­ing up the GCC to a sin­gle airspace re­gion that would be a much bet­ter out­come,” he added.

He said this was a “po­lit­i­cal is­sue” and progress had been slower than he would have liked, but said he was op­ti­mistic “we will get there even­tu­ally”.

“The co-op­er­a­tion we would need to make it some­thing for the fu­ture is prob­a­bly quite a long way from where we are at the mo­ment.

“But as with most things I think there’s grounds for op­ti­mism that we will get there be­cause every­one has a stake in the suc­cess of that route.”

Paul Grif­fiths cited the ap­proach used in Europe as his aim for the re­gion

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