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Major restructuring of UAE’s airspace eases air traffic congestion

The substantial restructuring of UAE’s airspace has opened up 150 new GPS “waypoints” for aircraft movement, in an ambitious bid to ease air traffic congestion, cut down on fuel costs and make way for more development in the country’s aviation sector.

“The Air Space Restructuring project aims to deliver crucial benefits to the UAE’s aviation sector, enhancing airspace capacity to meet forecast air traffic demand for 2020 and beyond,” said the Dubai Air Navigation Services (DANS).

DANS has supervised the recently concluded three-year endeavor, which was undertaken with the cooperation with Abu Dhabi Airports.

In air navigation, waypoints are usually composed of a series of GPS points that generate airways to streamline traffic.

The amendments are pegged to help carriers save an estimated US$14 million in fuel every year, and cur down carbon emissions by 90,401 metric tons.

DANS also remarked that overall air access would be ramped up to all airports in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Regional governments have been under pressure to find a solution to the problem of congested airspace, caused by the massive growth of aircraft movements in the last 20 years.

In the UAE, flight delays were occurring more frequently and the restructuring was geared to resolve the matter.

Emirates, Dubai’s flagship carrier, welcomed the conclusion of the project. The company’s Executive Vice President, Adel Al Redha, said:

“The airspace restructuring project benefits all stakeholders, with better capacity utilization for airports, more efficient operations for airlines, and ultimately, better flight experiences for travellers.”

“The UAE leads the way when it comes to innovative and collaborative approaches to modernizing air space management, and we look forward to working with all aviation stakeholders on future phases.”

Another bigwig to laud the project was Christopher Grazel, the Senior Vice President of Network Control Centre at flydubai.

“This development will bring advantages to the overall airline industry in the region and passengers flying using the Dubai aviation hub,” Grazel commented.

“A major highlight of the project has been the overall collaboration between the major stakeholders (Air Navigation Service Providers, GCAA, airports and airlines) to achieve what is the largest airspace change in UAE aviation history,” he added.

DANS took pride in the project’s achievement of “unprecedented milestones” which included the creation of 150 “highways in the sky.”

Dubai Airports’ Chief Executive, Paul Griffiths, said back in November that these new gateways would make way for simultaneous flight arrivals and departures, thus lowering delays.

“At present, there are on average 37 arrivals at 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,” Griffiths said back then.

The liberation of airspace is an urgent matter in the region especially with the projected growth in the industry. The demand for air travel in the Middle East is pegged to surge by 7% year on year in 2018, according to data by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The IATA has also pinpointed air traffic congestion as a major deterrent to aviation growth.

“The Gulf has done well in building airport capacity. But that has not been matched with improvements in air traffic management to handle the growth,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

“While there are an additional 150 waypoints, I would surmise that only a small percentage will have been introduced [to date] so that the wider air space management systems can incrementally deal with more flights as and when they arrive and depart,” explained Saj Ahmad, the Chief Analyst at StrategicAero Research.

The project has also taught 168 air traffic controllers to manage the redesigned airspace, and applied 90 new air traffic management (ATM) “procedures”, DANS announced.

These is a wide range of measures to improve efficiency, such as new navigational routings, elevation and approach requirements, runway operations and aircraft weight measurements, which establishes whether a shorter runway can be utilized to lessen taxiing and the fuel burn it causes.

“Coupled with the introduction of new air traffic controllers, new ATM procedures enable airlines to fly aircraft more precisely in line with scheduled timings to reduce fuel burn and emissions, and work towards allowing a greater number of flights to be handled,” Ahmad added.

“This will be key, too, when DWC is fully operational…because there will be immense pressure for it to perform flawlessly from day one.”

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