Modern airports face many challenges

Air traffic is growing quickly in the Gulf and throughout Asia (REUTERS)

Congested airspace, restricted flight paths and dated technical systems could undermine the potential of mega airports in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East, industry experts warned at the Air Traffic Control conference in Dubai yesterday.

Two senior representatives of one of the world's leading air navigation services providers said precise strategic planning was vital for the new generation of international airports in the region to overcome major threats to their effectiveness.

In his opening day keynote address at the conference, which is being staged as part of the Airport Show at Airport Expo Dubai, Dieter Kaden, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DFS, the German air navigation services provider Deutsche Flugsicherung, spoke about the challenges and solutions involved in modernising airspace management. "Air traffic is growing quickly in the Gulf and throughout Asia," said Kaden, whose company coordinates 3.1 million aircraft movements in German airspace each year.

"This will lead to complex and high-density air traffic areas, which will challenge the existing air traffic control infrastructure and organisations." The aviation industry has dealt with problems of crowded runways and limited seat capacity.

However, as many speakers at the conference pointed out new challenges such as congested airways and managing the growing number of air movements pose a threat to mega airports such as Dubai World Central's Al Maktoum International Airport, which will have six major runways when it opens. These concerns were also expressed by Achim Baumann, Gulf regional manager for Deutsche Flugsi-cherung, who spoke on the first day of the Airport Show, emphasising the crucial importance of involving air traffic control experts in the planning stages of new airport developments.

"Only a common and co-ordinated approach between all air traffic management stakeholders will lead to sustainable capacity growth," said Baumann, who outlined solutions for re-working airspace and route structure and said cross border communication was a key to minimising problems.

In a presentation on the "Future of air traffic management", Jeff Griffith, Executive Vice-President and COO of Washington Consulting Group, outlined 23 guidelines to minimise the impact of airspace congestion, allowing mega airports to reach their full potential.

Explaining that UAE airspace is influenced by the aviation regulations of other countries, Griffith said: "Global airspace management initiatives are essential. Greater collaboration between the region's aviation authorities will result in more efficient airspace management by alleviating any competing interests in the region."