Industry pushing for action in the Middle East

Airline industry body IATA has agreed to provide interim management for ICAO’s Middle East Airspace Enhancement Programme (MAEP) in the hope that initial projects could start delivering as early as 2015.

The decision was taken at the MAEP steering committee’s inaugural meeting in January.

MAEP was set up to provide the basis for a collaborative, regional approach to planning and implementing ATM projects in support of the Middle East Air Navigation Strategy. This includes the need to improve airspace efficiency and increase capacity to safely accommodate anticipated growth.

In order not to lose momentum, and recognising that the establishment of formal programme management could take some time, the meeting agreed to an Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO)/IATA proposal that a MAEP Core Team be established and provide interim programme management. IATA was designated Team Lead.

The first tasks to be performed include the development of an initial MAEP master plan which will be presented to the next Directors General of Civil Aviation Middle East (DGCA-MID/3) meeting in Doha, Qatar, 27-29 April; the identification of additional quick-wins; the exploration of viable funding options for MAEP and its projects; support and monitoring for the implementation of the call sign confusion-reduction initiative; and coordination with stakeholders to initiate the first phase of the newly-named MID ATS Route Network Optimisation Project (ARNOP).

MAEP is perceived to be the right forum for collaboration between all stakeholders under the ICAO umbrella. With strong engagement and involvement from industry, represented by AACO, ACI, CANSO and IATA, it is hoped that the MAEP can soon start delivering concrete outcomes.

Today, the Middle East is characterised by fragmented airspace structures, high levels of tactical intervention by air traffic control, choke points; traffic bunching and queuing, and reliance on conventional technologies.

With traffic expected to rise 5.2 per cent annually over the next 20 years, the region faces severe capacity and congestion challenges. In the United Arab Emirates alone, daily air traffic movements are expected to rise from 2,228 in 2014 to 5,100. And according to Boeing, there could be three times the number of aircraft in the region by 2033.

The region’s aviation infrastructure will face its next major test as early as 2020, when Dubai hosts the World Expo. This ‘mega-event’ – with its appropriate sub-themes of mobility, sustainability and opportunity – is expected to attract 25 million visitors over a six-month period. With this in mind, it is widely recognised that there is an urgent need to start implementing collaborative projects which enhance the region’s airspace structure.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is urging civil aviation authorities in the region to co-operate more to prevent airspace congestion.

The congestion, which is considered to be the principal challenge facing the region’s growth opportunities, was discussed during the Future Air Transportation Summit, FATSS, held the same week as the MAEP steering committee meeting.

Ahmed Al Jallaf, executive director of air navigation services at the GCAA said the civil aviation authorities in the Middle East needed to ‘amend the conception of partnership and teamwork’ and that countries in the region needed to show the required commitment, and provide necessary resources to make the proposed ideas viable.

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