Aviation authorities plan on Thursday to inaugurate a new Dh300 million air traffic control centre in Abu Dhabi to help accommodate the expected growth in air travel in the UAE over the next 20 years.The Shaikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre, located two kilometres from Terminal 1 of Abu Dhabi International Airport, aims to alleviate air traffic congestion, minimise flight delays and help aircraft fly shorter and more efficient routes.
The centre has been in operation since June, but the Authority will mark its official opening on November 14, said Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority. Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, is expected to inaugurate the centre.
Al Suwaidi, speaking to reporters on Tuesday during a media tour of the centre, said the complex is the largest and busiest air traffic management facility in the Middle East and one of the most technically advanced in the world.
"The latest technologies will give us the technological advances and operational headroom to accommodate a substantial increase in air traffic volume over the next 20 years, when we anticipate handling over two million annual movements in the country," he said. The centre is responsible for communicating with airports in other countries and sharing information with all flights entering the UAE's "Flight Information Region."
The average daily volume of air traffic has been growing rapidly in the UAE since 1986, and the country experienced a 13.4 per cent increase in daily air traffic movements over the 12 months ending in October, according to the centre.
The facility itself contains 34 individual control centres and an additional 22 centres reserved for emergency purposes. Of its 60 air traffic controllers, 22 are Emiratis. It plans to add ten more officers by the end of 2010, said Hassan Mohammed Hassan Karam, director of air navigation services for the GCAA. The site also has four 60-metre high communications masts, Hassan toKldh aleej Times.
Among the centre's activities has been the recent opening of a new air route to Saudi Arabia called "A419," in cooperation with military authorities. The new airway reduces the duration of flights, with consequential savings on fuel and engine emissions, Al Suwaidi said. "The GCAA also recently deployed a new radar system, the first of its kind in the Middle East to communicate directly with air navigation control more accurately than traditional aircraft radar images," he added.
GCAA has banned the operation of 30 airlines in the UAE Flight Information Region (UAEFIR) so far this year, which were not complying with the GCAA's prescribed standards of flight operation in the country, said Al Suwaidi.
These airlines include those from some African and Asian countries, he said. More airlines are under GCAA scanner and this is a continuous process of the GCAA for the safety of passengers and security of the UAEFIR, Al Suwaidi said.
Explaining about the ban, Al Suwaidi said, there is a mechanism and standards for flight operation in the country and these airlines failed to fulfil that.
Al Suwaidi ruled out any connection between the ban and the crash of Sudanese Azza Transport's Boeing 707 on takeoff from Sharjah International Airport in October.