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Tue 8 Apr 2014 12:05 PM

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Let commercial jets use military airspace to ease Gulf gridlock - IATA

Global aviation body says region’s air traffic growth will be stymied because passenger planes are banned from 40-60% of airspace

Let commercial jets use military airspace to ease Gulf gridlock - IATA
(AFP/Getty Images)

An international aviation body has called on Gulf governments to allow commercial aircraft to use military airspace and help alleviate the region’s increasingly dire airspace bottle-neck.

Civil aviation is booming in the Gulf, accounting for the majority of the Middle East’s rising share of global traffic from four percent to nine percent in just over a decade.

But further growth is being stymied by a lack of flying routes because between 40-60 percent of Gulf airspace is reserved only for military use.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general and CEO Tony Tyler said without better regional cooperation in air traffic management and greater flexibility in airspace use the region’s aviation industry would not be able to continue to grow at the same pace.

“We are trying to squeeze the fast-growing civil aviation component into a fraction of the airspace,” Tyler said in a keynote speech at the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“One solution is to develop partnerships and trust with the military to open more flexible-use zones. That is happening progressively — but it is not keeping pace with demand for air travel.”

He said air traffic gridlock could become the industry’s Achilles’ heel.

“Airspace is finite, so capacity can only grow with efficiency. Each country has invested in impressive technology but effective management needs regional and international teamwork,” Tyler said.

“The players in the region urgently need to buy into a vision for seamless airspace management in the region and then work together in a team effort to make it happen.”

Gulf airlines and regional aviation bodies have for years been calling for greater air traffic management cooperation in the region

Last year Dubai Civil Aviation Authority director general Mohammed Abdulla Ahli told Arabian Business the region “absolutely” needed to implement a Europe-style centralised air traffic control system to avoid constraining growth in the aviation sector.

But the states have been unable to agree on how to solve congestion issues as the industry expands at a rapid rate, particularly in the UAE, Qatar and soon Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East has recorded the highest passenger growth rates each quarter for some time, according to IATA data. It was more than 12 percent during 2013.

Aviation also has become a key contributor to local economies. In the UAE, aviation and aviation-related tourism are linked to more than 430,000 jobs and contribute to 14.7 percent of gross domestic product.

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