x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai air traffic control diverts to Jebel Ali

The changes are part of plans to gradually transition activities to the new US$8.2 billion mega-hub.

Planes arriving at Dubai International Airport will be guided by a new air traffic control system miles away in Jebel Ali soon after the new Al Maktoum International Airport opens next summer. The changes are part of plans to gradually transition activities to the new US$8.2 billion (Dh30.11bn) mega-hub. "We are taking the opportunity to create a single air traffic services centre at Al Maktoum that will serve both airports," said Paul Griffiths, (ck) the chief executive of Dubai Airports, who has lobbied for GCC governments to take a united approach to air traffic control.

The centre, called the Approach Radar Service, will be gradually transitioned to the new airport as the new equipment is installed and staff are trained. The centre is responsible for receiving flights handed over from the federal General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). When flights enter the Dubai airspace and are below 14,000 feet (6267 meters), the flights are passed from the GCAA to Dubai's Approach Radar Service, which then eventually hands the flights over to control tower operators at Al Maktoum, Dubai International and Sharjah airports for landing, the spokesman said. "It will be a transitional period which could run from 2010 to 2011," he said.

Al Maktoum International will open next year with a passenger terminal and one runway capable of handling 5 million passengers a year, and is envisaged as becoming the world's largest airport when it gradually expands to having five runways and capacity for 160 million travellers a year. A 92-metre air traffic control tower at Al Maktoum will be commissioned in the next few months and the airport expects be certified by the GCAA sometime during the summer. Like Dubai International, the airport is planned to be operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Mr Griffiths said, and would seek to become certified to operate in low visibility conditions as soon as possible.

But at opening the new airport would not have ready a customs-controlled motorway to Jebel Ali port to allow duty-free transfer, officials said, a crucial link for logistics companies. "There won't be bonded facilities in place from day one," he said. "We are still in discussions with the RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) about road and surface transport access." Dubai Airports has promoted the bonded motorway as been a key selling point for logistics companies to move operations from Dubai International Airport to the new Al Maktoum airport, since it would reduce transit times for cargo travelling between Jebel Ali Port to the emirate's air links significantly.

Dirk Van Doorn (ck), the Middle East business and product development manager at DHL Express, said the bonded motorway is a crucial piece of infrastructure. "From an industry perspective this is absolutely key, and I'm not just speaking on behalf of DHL but my colleagues as a whole at FedEx and TNT," he said. igale@thenational.ae