Airspace Capacity Challenges in the Region
With the fast growth in aircraft movements in the region, which is mostly fueled by the expansion of Arab airlines, and which is expected to more than double in the coming fifteen years, come airspace capacity challenges.
There have been several national developments on that front in the region, such as the reforms in Oman, the UAE airspace review, the developments in Saudi Arabia and specifically the Empty Quarter area, and others; however, the region still suffers from several deficiencies in its airspace management (ATM) and capacity, mainly the fragmentation of airspace due to the multitude of military restricted no-fly zones which represent more than 50% of the available airspace, and the concentration of traffic on the existing routes with minor consideration to new traffic flaws.
Urgent Need for Airspace Infrastructure Reform
The development of Arab airports into state-of-the-art facilities is definitely one of the important attributes of air transport in the Arab world. However, if this development is not coupled with the development of the airspace infrastructure (ATM and airspace capacity), then the growing role of the Arab air transport sector as a catalyst for economic development will be hindered. AACO considers the improvement of airspace infrastructure in the region a top priority. For that, AACO is working hand in hand with ACAC, ICAO, IATA, CANSO and most importantly states in order to resolve ATM deficiencies, increase airspace capacity and alleviate bottlenecks from the region through three major milestones:
- Renovation of air traffic systems and equipment where required.
- Increase coordination on national level with military authorities for Flexible Use of Airspace by civil aviation when national security does not require it to be limited to military use.
- Development of traffic flow management units on sub-regional levels which should evolve to cover the whole region, and without which individual investments will only result in relocating bottlenecks within the region.
Please click here to read AACO’s 46th AGM resolution on this matter.
Please click here to read AACO’s 47th AGM resolution on this matter.
A Need for Efficient and Effective Use of Airspace
Airspace is a scarce and finite resource that needs to be fully utilized. Expanding the available airspace to civil aviation through the review of the current ATS route network and the implementation of operational concepts that support airspace optimization and availability (such as Flexible Use of Airspace – FUA and Performance Based Navigation – PBN) are vital for the sustainability of air transport.
In addition, individual national developments in ATM and airspace capacity are not enough on their own to deliver the sought results of seamless operations, enhanced safety and sustainability; harmonization, integration and collaboration among aviation stakeholders are essential to realize the full potential of national projects in air and ground infrastructures.
All stakeholders acknowledge the airspace infrastructure challenges in the region and the need to collaborate in order to resolve them. As a result, ICAO, in partnership with relevant industry stakeholders including AACO, launched the Middle East ATM Enhancement Programme (MAEP). MAEP will be a single platform that provides the ICAO umbrella under which all regional air navigation projects would be implemented. It will focus on regional efforts to overcome the fragmented airspace structure and the reliance on conventional technologies and operations that prevent airlines, Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and airports from profiting from the capabilities of existing and future systems. MAEP will also provide a vehicle for inter-regional cooperation and collaboration, in particular with other regional ATM Programmes such as SESAR (Europe) and NextGen (USA).