While it is still a long way from the record-high pre-pandemic traffic levels, Dubai International Airport ramps up hourly capacity to get to even higher volumes. Together with Dubai Air Navigation Services (dans), DXB has implemented new separation procedures to increase hourly capacity.
Called RECAT, the procedures have been studied since 2013. In the Dubai Control Area that extends fifty miles out of DXB, separation criteria between incoming and departing aircraft have been reviewed under the Enhanced Wake-Turbulence Separation program. Eurocontrol, Emirates, and flydubai participated in the program. With its Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s causing the most wake turbulence, Emirates has had every reason to look for new solutions that could reduce separation and, hence, increase capacity.
“The minimum limits for the convergence of aircraft movement within the Dubai control area are applied for departing flights, by determining the flight times between successive aircraft, as these distances between aircraft, determined for pilots either by time or distance, are provided by the air traffic control tower at airports Dubai”, dans explains the changes.
The result is that at peak hours, two or three extra incoming flights and even six additional departing flights per hour can be processed compared to the older situation. At the same time, aircraft can be processed at a higher rate, reducing the time they have to wait in holding areas before they are accepted. Not just DXB, but also Dubai World Central and the dedicated airfield of the Emirates Flight Training Academy located there, and Sharjah Airport benefit from the new procedures.
“This strategic project, being implemented for the first time in the Middle East, will contribute towards enhancing the performance of Dubai airports in three ways: increase the capacity of our airspace, reduce the time for landing flights during the peak periods, and saving fuel at our airports”, said Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Not only is he Chairman and chief executive of Emirates, but also the President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Chairman of Dubai Airports, and of dans.
Not the first change to increase capacity
Procedural changes have been done before at Dubai International to ramp up hourly capacity. In 2016, the Approach Peak Offload system was introduced to redirect smaller aircraft behind an A380 or 777 to a parallel runway. Reduced runway separation was also introduced. APO improved throughput from 33.2 to 34.8 aircraft an hour while reducing delays by forty percent. The separation between incoming A380s was reduced from 7.4 to 5.5 kilometers.
In December 2017, dans and seven partners introduced the Airspace Restructuring Project ARP-3, making the Emirates Flight Information Region the first in the world to rely on performance-based navigation using satellite information. It was implemented in view of ever-increasing growth numbers at DXB, which processes 86.4 million passengers in 2019 despite the closure of its southern runway for 45 days for reconstruction works. That year, some 1.338 aircraft movements per day operated from DXB and Dubai World Central.
Air traffic service providers managed some 882.000 movements in the UAE in 2017. Some 1.1 million were expected in 2020, but the pandemic of course changed this. Yet, in its latest forecast, dans expects that all seven civil airports within the United Arab Emirates including Abu Dhabi and El Ain will process a combined 1.62 million movements by 2030. This compares to a 2017 forecast for the year of 1.85 million. So for this reason alone, every available option is used to squeeze some additional capacity out of the system.
After fifteen months of hibernation, Dubai Airports at DXB has reopened Terminal 1 and its related Concourse D again on June 24 as the airport expects a return of more airlines. During the pandemic, airlines only operated from Terminals 2 and 3, the latter exclusively used by Emirates. Concourse D was opened in 2016.