|16 September, 2019

Flying high: $23bln worth of UAE aviation projects in progress

Aviation sector has contributed significantly to the UAE's GDP by up to 15 per cent

Emirates Airlines Airbus A380-800 plane approaches for landing at Dubai Airports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018.

Emirates Airlines Airbus A380-800 plane approaches for landing at Dubai Airports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 26, 2018. Picture taken December 26, 2018.

REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed

Dubai - The UAE's aviation sector continues to soar and the government pledges to keep it that way, a top official of the industry's regulator said.

"A whopping Dh85 billion worth of airport development projects are in progress in UAE, that would see a combined capacity of handling more than 300 million passengers every year," said Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

He said the aviation sector has contributed significantly to the UAE's GDP by up to 15 per cent. The UAE now accounts for around 45 per cent of the Arab aviation sector, taking into consideration the number of passengers and aircraft capacity, as well as the arrival of five to six aircrafts per month to its fleet of four national carriers.

"The aviation sector is aiming to increase the share of GDP to 20 per cent in the coming years through various projects that contribute to the growth of national carriers and the development of airport infrastructure to increase its capacity as the UAE expects an arrival of two billion passengers in the next five years," he added.

Commenting on the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft which remains grounded since March after two fateful crashes resulting in death of 346 people, he said it is unlikely that 737 will fly this year.

"We will not follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the USA. However, the FAA's study or assessment will help us to take a good decision. We are waiting for Boeing to provide solutions. Once they are finished (with their work), they will submit report to FAA. We will do our own investigation - either alone or with entities from other countries like China where MAX is used," he said.

"I am not every optimistic (about 737 taking off in Q4. First quarter 2020 is more realistic," he told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference hosted to announce the 2nd edition of Global Investment in Aviation Summit (GIAS 2020) to be held in January 2020.

In addition, the GCAA may ask for additional tests for 737 MAX if needed, he added.

Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the narrow-body jets.

The US aircraft manufacturer Boeing aims to get approval from regulators for its 737 MAX fixes in October. But the US Federal Aviation Administration has not yet given any timeframe for 737 MAX takeoff.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research in London, said it's very difficult to pin down an exact date for the return to service for the 737 MAX, primarily because agencies across the world are likely to conduct their own flight testing before granting approval.

"The FAA is leading this effort, so it stands to reason that after next month's flight testing, there's a chance that the MAX fleet in the USA at least, could see flights before the end of the year. But this assumes a flawless test effort and no new anomalies - and given the scrutiny the FAA itself is facing, this timeline is definitely in flux," he said.

Boeing, according to Ahmad, is keen to ensure that the MAX fleet complies not just with the FAA requirements, but also ensures compliance to other global regulatory authorities.

"Given the time that has elapsed since the grounding, there is no point rushing the MAX back into operations if something in flight testing is not addressed. With that in mind, it's better to err on the side of caution and even if that means no 737 MAX flights restarting until next year, then so be it," he added.

Commenting on the slowdown in the aviation sector, Al Suwaidi noted that it is reflection of global economy which is experiencing slowdown.

"We are working to sustain growth; however, challenges come from outside because of slowdown in global economy. We will see good growth next year," he said, adding Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal to be certified by the end of this year and could be ready next year.

Al Suwaidi expects over 1,200 visitors, 200 investors and senior officials of civil aviation industry will attend the GIAS summit in January 27-29, 2020.

"First edition was a major success with over 850 attendees and 120 investors from 60 countries. We'll also enable SMEs to enter this important sector and encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups to attend in order to realise their tangible targets," he said.

 

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