Next-generation technology to improve capacity, efficiency and reduce operating expenses is the key to a sustainable future for Middle East aviation says Anthony Azar, director High Growth Regions EMEA, Honeywell Aerospace based in Dubai.

Next-generation technology to improve capacity, efficiency and reduce operating expenses is the key to a sustainable future for Middle East aviation says Anthony Azar, Director High Growth Regions EMEA, Honeywell Aerospace based in Dubai.

Although airlines across the globe face tough economic conditions, the demand for flights within the Middle East continues to rise and air traffic continues to increase. Per IATA’s figures for July 2012, Middle East carriers experienced the strongest traffic growth globally, at more than 11 per cent year-over-year. 
 
Hub airports have expanded to meet the long-term aspirational growth targets of the Middle East, with Dubai International Airport just one example of an airport leading the way in the region. Opened in 1960 with just a single airstrip, it is now the fourth busiest airport in the world. The state-of-the-art facility now handles over 50 million passengers a year -- an eight percent annual growth on the year previous -- and serves over 150 airlines flying to more than 220 destinations across six continents. 

With hub airports around the region handling an increasing number of airlines, flight movements and passengers, pressure on the network has never been greater. To sustain capacity growth, it is imperative that the Middle East aerospace industry finds new ways to combat rising operating costs through new air traffic management technology. 
 
A New Approach to Landing
 
Technology and advanced engineering are the foundations of the aviation industry, and they play a critical role in improving efficiency around the airport environment. Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) have been used widely since the 1960s to guide aircraft into land, although the technology and concept dates back to the early 1930s. Consequently, for hub airports such as Dubai International Airport, more sophisticated systems are now becoming essential in order to ensure safer and more efficient operation of aircraft approaches.  
Honeywell’s SmartPath, the only FAA-certified Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS), can save airports as much as $500,000 per system per year over ILS in reduced maintenance costs. SmartPath increases an airport’s operational capacity by allowing aircraft to fly either complex or straight-in approaches, depending on air traffic demands. Honeywell has proven the capabilities of GBAS at more than 25 airports around the world and is operating SmartPath at early adopter airports including Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Bremen, Germany and Sydney, Australia. Unlike an ILS system, which can only handle straight approaches at one end of a single runway, SmartPath can simultaneously manage up to 26 different complex approaches across four runways – all from one single station on the ground. This increased capacity helps airlines fly more aircraft to meet demand, and can have a direct impact on an airport’s revenue as a result. 
Optimising long-haul routing
 
However it’s not just in and around the airport that operators can make efficiency savings. With long-haul trans-oceanic operations at the core of the Middle East’s commercial aviation industry, there are substantial gains to be found mid-flight too.
 
Currently there are efficiency and capacity challenges resulting from the minimum distances aircraft must space themselves when flying through oceanic airspace. Without ground radar, air traffic control (ATC) does not have accurate real-time data on where each aircraft is in the sky at any one point in time. This makes it harder for aircraft to change altitude or deviate from their original flight plan and the result is many long-haul aircraft fly at sub-optimal altitudes resulting in increased fuel burn.
 
To solve this problem, Honeywell’s Traffic Alerting and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) with SmartTraffic technology broadcasts the aircraft’s position in real-time to avoid sole reliance on ground-based radar. TCAS provides flight crews and ATC with visual awareness of the location, altitude and direction of travel of any aircraft within a moving 40-mile radius, enabling the aircraft to request and complete altitude changes faster -- a process known as In-Trail Procedure (ITP). Spending more time at optimal altitudes can translate into annual airline savings of more than $100,000 per aircraft, and crucially aircraft could eventually bring traffic separation down from around 40 nautical miles to as low as 15 nautical miles, increasing capacity of the skies.
 
Timed to perfection
 
In all of these examples, improved accuracy and awareness is key to easing congestion and increasing airlines’ efficiency. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Honeywell’s latest 4D trajectory developments under the EU’s SESAR programme, which will incorporate the “fourth dimension” of time into traditional 3D route planning. Through modifications to the aircraft’s Flight Management System, ATC will one day be able to predict, and manage, the timing of the aircraft’s arrival at any given waypoint on its flight path to within a matter of seconds. For the Middle East this could one day see an end to fuel-intensive holding patterns prior to arrival, as each aircraft will be able to seamlessly merge on approach and arrive exactly when they are supposed to. This equates to more aircraft in the sky, each burning less fuel than they would have previously and, as a result, a greater opportunity for airports and operators to extends their profitability.
 
Tomorrow’s technology, available today
 
With many of these technologies available or in development today, the Middle East aerospace industry already has the opportunity to future-proof fleets to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency. By harnessing the power of technology, carriers and airports in the region will be able to capitalise on the opportunities in the Middle East’s rapidly growing aviation market to ensure they are delivering a safe and efficient experience to passengers while allowing aircraft fleets to fly further, greener, faster and smarter.
 
This article was written by: Anthony Azar, managing director, Gasoline Turbochargers, Honeywell Turbo Technologies (HTT), Transportation Systems (TS)Anthony has held various leadership roles for 13 out of the 15 years he has spent at Honeywell. And holds a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering & Management from Imperial College in London, United Kingdom.