In what it called a “ground-breaking and historic moment,” the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is to launch a major change in airspace management on December 7. Signaling completion of the UAE Airspace Restructuring Project (UAE ARP), a project that has taken several years. The project included consultation with the five regional adjacent entities involved—Bahrain, Muscat, Tehran, Jeddah and Qatar.

A GCAA statement, issued October 18, said the restructuring was the culmination of extensive analysis, development and collaboration across the UAE aviation community. To enable the evolution of “one of the most advanced air traffic management systems in the world.”

The authority said extensive cooperation from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre, Dubai Air Navigation Services, Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, Ras Al Khaimah Department of Civil Aviation, Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation, Fujairah Department of Civil Aviation, as well as many other aviation stakeholders, was necessary to complete the restructuring.

“The implementation of the UAE ARP has demonstrated our capability to safely meet the capacity requirements for the forecasted 2020 air traffic demand and beyond,” said Saif Al Suwaidi, GCAA director general. “Also [it will] deliver environmental efficiency and fuel savings exceeding $15 million to airline customers within the first year after implementation.”

The GCAA said the project will “see the Emirates Flight Information Region [FIR] transformed into the world’s first airspace structure to be completely based on performance-based navigation [PBN] with a navigation specification of RNAV-1 [GNSS].”

This implies that aircraft entering the Emirates FIR must be equipped to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements. RNAV-1 being the navigation specification using GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), which includes GPS and other satellite constellations.

“Primarily, the airspace change was designed to increase UAE airspace capacity to meet the forecasted air traffic demand for 2022,” the GCAA said, “as well as increase access to all UAE airports, improve efficiency for both aviation system customers and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and reduce the environmental impact of the increasing traffic through more effective air traffic management operations.”

“‘Performance-based navigation [or PBN] is navigation that uses [GNSS] and computerized on-board systems. PBN offers considerable advantages to traditional sensor-specific navigation based largely on fixed ground-based beacons guiding aircraft along published routes via waypoints defined by these beacons,” GCAA said.

The project required more than 120,000 man hours to develop an airspace environment that was compatible with future requirements, said Ahmed Al Jallaf, assistant director general ANS, GCAA.

“Multiple fast-time and real-time simulations in Italy, UK and in the UAE formed critical activities for the design validation and verification of the revised airspace network. The ARP also requires more than 250 air traffic controllers to take simulation and theoretical training; the redesign of over 200 instrument flight procedures; and the incorporation of 30 new airways,” he said.

Al Jallaf highlighted the collaborative nature of the project, which involved, national stakeholders, multiple ANSPs, several different airports, and airlines with various interests and strategies. “We clearly demonstrated that we can all work together, through a little bit of compromise between every entity, and achieve remarkable results and benefits,” he told AIN.

The GCAA and Spanish company Indra Sistemas signed a contract in September to develop a “next generation” air traffic management system for Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre.

Al Jallaf said the GCAA has also implemented an online data interchange (OLDI) system with Bahrain this year. And envisions “potential OLDI implementation with Muscat in Q1 2018.”

The MID (Middle East) Region ATM Enhancement Programme (MAEP), to foster Gulf Cooperation Council ATM cooperation, is also still in the discussion phase. “It is still on the ICAO MID agenda. However, it is slowed down due to the MID states’ discussions on the legal and financial framework,” Al Jallaf said.


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