x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New 'highway in the sky' for UAE

The UAE and Bahrain have agreed to create a new "airway" for airine flights between the two countries - with video.

The UAE has reached an airspace agreement with Bahrain that will help reduce growing congestion in the skies.

The new M600 airway will act as another "highway in the sky" for passenger airlines and illustrates the government's efforts to accommodate growing passenger flights to and from the Emirates.

"The rapid growth and development of Civil Aviation Industry and air traffic movements between UAE and Bahrain was the main reason for the opening of M600"," said Saif Mohamed al Suwaidi, the director general of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). "This airway would reduce traffic congestion, controller and pilot workload and enhance airspace capacity which will improve air traffic safety."

The UAE has the most congested airspace in the region, with five flag carriers including Emirates, the world's biggest international airline, as well as the country's status as a thriving trading hub and tourism destination. In addition, most of the nation's airspace is controlled by the military and off-limits to commercial airlines.

Due to its space limitations, the Emirates has embarked on a sustained investment programme and the GCAA in 2009 opened a Dh300millionair traffic control headquarters at the Sheikh Zayed Centre, designed to be able to handle projected increases in traffic for the next two decades.

The centre reached an innovative agreement with the Armed Forces last year to flexibly use previously restricted military airspace, including a corridor for commercial airliners travelling to Yemen and Africa. In 2009 the GCAA also began using a system called RNAV 1, which shrinks the size of the airspace corridors airlines are allowed to fly in from 16km wide to 3.2km wide, allowing corridors to be stacked next to each other.

But despite the nation's advances, it has been constrained by the systems used by its regional neighbors.

The upgrading of new systems and processes has allowed the UAE to permit one aircraft to fly as close as 9.2km behind another. In some neighbouring countries the gap can be as big as 55.5km, GCAA officials said in 2009. "We are trying to convince these countries to be more efficient. That will help us and help them to handle more traffic," Mr al Suwaidi said at the time.

igale@thenational.ae