The UAE Airspace Restructuring Project originated from a key recommendation of an Airbus ProSky study initiated by the GCAA in 2013. “Other recommendations related to policy, flexible use of airspace, and technology deployment are being implemented alongside the restructuring,” explained Al Jallaf (pictured right).
Phase 1 of the project, which focused on the lower terminal airspace, has been completed. Phase II, which is tasked with developing a conceptual airspace design for the upper en-route airspace, began in January and according to Al Jallaf should be completed by the first quarter of next year.
Meanwhile work is progressing on the final Phase 3, an implementation road map which, says Al Jallaf, is aimed at “merging the airspace design concepts with current and future procedures and technologies.”
The restructure, which Al Jallaf says is “unique” in that its takes a collaborative approach involving all stakeholders and decision makers, has resulted in two implementation road map concepts being laid on the table.
But the Asst. Director General says obtaining unanimous consensus continues to be challenging. “Looking at the size of the airspace, its complexity and high density it’s going to be difficult to satisfy everyone,” he cautions. “The beauty of it though is that everyone is part of it and all interests are represented.
“The GCAA is extremely keen to ensure fair representation and fair acceptance and agreement for all but given the complexity of the situation in the UAE a level of compromise will be required.”
The collaborative process has focussed on national stakeholders, and has involved a degree of co-ordination with the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) and IATA.
The Asst. Director General points out that the Airbus ProSky study determined that management of UAE airspace – one of the most complex in the world in terms of traffic density - matches anything in the West, though he admits a wider view is necessary.
“We need more regional solutions. Four major airspaces blocks are not available for use at the moment in the Middle East – Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya – and it’s a huge portion. It is limiting flow and capacity.
“We need more regional enhancement. We are contributing to the GCC airspace project which should kick off by the end of this year or early next.”
On the wider Middle East – the 15 regional states in ICAO – “the challenges”, says Al Jallaf, “are different and are being addressed via the Middle East Airspace Enhancement Programme (MEAP)”, the Board of which he chairs.
“The challenges surround the different levels of understanding. We have to convince everyone of the vital role aviation plays in national economic development and that we need appropriate planning to cater to future traffic demand.
“I am however confident that we will continue our journey to convince everyone of the need for a regional solution which will harmonise airspace projects and procedures.”
Al Jallaf said despite four blocks of airspace in the region currently being out-of-bounds, work should continue on getting solutions in place. “We need to work with airspace users to find out what they want and then put packages in place so that when the right time and demand comes, the necessary procedures, systems and documentation are in place.”
Technology crucial to sustainable solutions
For the UAE, which boasts one of the world’s highest aviation growth rates, technology will be crucial to sustainable solutions and Al Jallaf says the investment appetite is right across the board.
“The solution is investment in technology as we cannot expand the airspace available. We need technology to ensure we are fully utilizing on-board technology, and that it is fully integrated and interoperable with that of the airports, for better predictability to allow operators to manage their fleet in line with the system wide information management concept for the smooth flow of traffic.
“We have the privilege here of having government commitment and support to do our best on what needs to be done to ensure we have secured the safety of our operations and we also have the privilege of timely and effective decision making. In terms of investment, there is willingness. All involved have to work through the due process of cost and benefit analysis. We are quick decision makers, but we are smart decision makers, and it takes time to ensure we have the quality vendors and systems that we require.”
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