Redefining airspace


With Oman’s civil aviation expanding rapidly, the number of airplane movement over Omani air space is only expected to go up. The need of the hour is to redesign the airspace to increase capacity, efficiency and safety, says John Swift, Director, NATS Middle East, while on a visit to Muscat.

The Middle East continues to buck the global reduction in aircraft movements with an expanding aviation market that sees investment in airports and airspace measuring in billions of dollars to provide the capacity needed.

Just consider the airspace capacity in the Middle East as per aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s estimates. The Middle East will require 2370 new aircraft from 2012 to 2031, of which only 731 will be replacements, meaning 69 per cent of that number are additional aircraft.

The Sultanate is not far behind in this unprecedented growth being witnessed by the regional commercial aviation industry, especially in the Gulf. The expansion within the Middle East requires all of its countries to support one another in developing the airspace and the procedures that govern it. Along with the growth in the aviation industry comes a huge challenge of managing the country’s airspace. With two international airports (Muscat and Salalah) and five other small domestic airports spread in various corners of the country expected to become operational within the next seven years, the movement of aircraft certainly calls for regulation and management.

National Air Traffic Services (NATS)is closely involved with the Sultanate’s Ministry of Transport to deliver a far-reaching project that will fundamentally redesign its airspace in order to increase capacity, efficiency and safety in the region. The Sultanate chose NATS Services, the UK aviation solutions provider, based upon its experience, commitment and ability to deliver.

NATS is a regional and international leader in air traffic management and the main air navigation service provider in the UK. The company currently controls 75 per cent of all UK air traffic. The firm has extensive experience in such projects and has won contracts in Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. While talking about his visit to Oman, John Swift, director, NATS Middle East, says that his firm is working closely with the government of Oman, namely the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Public Authority for Civil Aviation, and DGMAN, to design the airspace around Muscat International Airport to allow for the airport’s expansion and plan for the increase in air space capacity. “I am responsible for developing NATS’ strategy in the Middle East, building key local relationships and demonstrating NATS’ strong commitment to the region by developing regional projects into major sustainable businesses,” he adds. Considering the consequences of limited airspace capacity, delays due to planes holding in the air waiting to land or at the airport for permission to take off, NATS’ work in Oman is a watershed moment in, as well as a mark of, Oman’s growth, and will have far reaching positive effects by making travel to and from the Sultanate more efficient.

While expressing his delight in working with the different organisations involved with Oman’s civil aviation, Swift says, “We are looking forward to supporting the Omani authorities with the development of their airspace. At the same time, I can say we are committed to working with our customers here over the long term and in so doing establishing and earning our reputation for delivering solutions to complex issues with projects such as capacity analysis, operational performance summaries, safety audits and airspace/ procedure design.” Swift concludes that the Middle East is transforming rapidly and therefore for today’s solutions to work, they (the airports and airspaces) need to be designed and implemented with a long term strategy in mind.

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