x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE-Bahrain pact eases air transit congestion

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

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

The new airway, designated M600, will be another highway in the skyfor passenger airlines and illustrates the Government's efforts to lessen the pressure from the growing number of 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 Mohammed 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. Last month, air traffic movements were up 6.7 per cent from April last year, reaching an average of 1,860 flights a day. The growing air services are being operated by the UAE's five carriers including Emirates Airline - the world's biggest international carrier - and more than 130 other operators.

In addition, most of the nation's airspace is controlled by the military and is off-limits to commercial airlines, which has meant most flights being funnelled into narrow air corridors leading in and out of airports.

Because of its space limitations, the Emirates has embarked on a sustained investment programme, and the GCAA in 2009 opened a Dh300 million (US$81.6m) air traffic control headquarters at the Sheikh Zayed Centre, designed to handle projected increases in traffic for the next two decades.

The centre reached agreement with the Armed Forces last year to use previously restricted military airspace, including a corridor for commercial flights to and from Yemen and Africa.

The upgrading of systems and processes has allowed the UAE to permit aircraft to fly as close as 9.2km behind each other. In some neighbouring countries the gap could be as much as 55.5km, GCAA officials have said.

igale@thenational.ae