OBG talks to Mohammed Ahli, Director-General, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA)

Mohammed Ahli, Director-General, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA)

Interview: Mohammed Ahli

What role does the aviation industry play in the wider economy of the emirate?

MOHAMMED AHLI: The aviation industry is a crucial aspect of Dubai’s economy. In 2011 the aviation industry as a whole employed over 250,000 people and contributed approximately 28% of GDP, while generating $22bn worth of revenue. As a result, companies within the industry are expanding rapidly. Emirates Airlines has placed an order for 90 A380s and is adding two aircrafts weekly to its fleet. The airline has 170 aircrafts in operation.

If these numbers are impressive now, imagine what they will look like in the medium term. By 2020 Dubai is projecting the aviation industry to produce 32% of GDP and generate approximately $45bn in revenues. At the DCAA we must support the expansion and continue to evolve our strategy.

What measures are currently being considered to address the issue of air space capacity?

AHLI: There are a total of 135 airlines operating through Dubai International airport alone. By the end of 2012 we are expecting foot-traffic in the airport to reach more than 56m passengers. To give a point of reference, aircraft movements in Dubai are now five times more numerous than 25 years ago, growing from 63,000 in 1985 to more than 326,000 in 2011. By 2020 aircraft movements in the emirate are forecast to surpass 570,000, with passenger numbers climbing to 115m. Around that time Emirates Airline alone will be operating a fleet of 250 jets, up from 170 today and just 75 five years ago. Similar growth plans are being followed by other Gulf airlines. In the past, most aviation congestion occurred on the ground. Today the biggest strategic threat to growth of aviation is in the air. To address these issues we are forming two new committees: a technical committee made up of local airports and one international body acting as a consultant. The purpose of the technical committee will be to prepare a general framework and map out a strategy to address the challenges and create solutions. The executive committee will oversee all aspects of the aviation industry and will act as the final decision maker. The development of two aerospaces is also under way. One of these will be within the GCC and the other will serve as an international aerospace. Dubai Airports is now finalising a strategy to expand airspace capacity over the next decade. Measures being considered include adjusting the sequencing of arrivals and departures, redesigning route structures and making better use of technologies such as performance-based navigation and communication navigation and surveillance systems that help aircraft to fly more efficiently. Dubai Airports is also leading a joint Middle East airspace study in coordination with The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority and Dubai Civil Aviation Authority to work across borders to optimise the region’s airspace structure.

How is aviation infrastructure being developed to keep pace with growth in the sector?

AHLI: The public and private sectors in Dubai’s aviation industry must continue to come together to provide everything that is needed to support growth. The government is working to get more traffic rights and landing rights for the airlines. The DCAA is amending certain regulations to make it easier for other airlines to enter the market. There are also new agreements being made that take into consideration all airlines and treat the industry players with equality. Pre-emptive measures were taken in 2009 when the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority opened a Dh300m ($81.7m) air traffic control headquarters at the Sheikh Zayed Centre in Abu Dhabi to handle projected increases in traffic for the next two decades. The current strategy is focused on the construction and completion of concourse three and four and increasing the parking by 60 aircraft spaces in Dubai Airport alone. There is also the construction of the Jebel Ali runway which will give Dubai a total of five international runways and create enough space for more than 90m passengers by 2020.


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The Report: Dubai 2013

Transport chapter from The Report: Dubai 2013

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