16 September 2011 Middle East

INTERVIEW: CANSO Talks to the President of GACA

CANSO Interviews His Excellency, Dr. Faisal Hamad Al-sugair, President of GACA
His Excellency, Dr. Faisal Hamad Al-sugair, President of GACA
His Excellency, Dr. Faisal Hamad Al-sugair, assumed his official duties at GACA’s headquarters in Jeddah in March this year. CANSO interviewed him to gain a better insight into the region and find out what his vision is for transforming ATM performance

Your Excellency, you assumed your official duties as the new president of GACA in March this year. What is your vision for GACA going forward?
Our vision is to create a healthy aviation environment whereby aviation stakeholders will benefit through improved infrastructure and operating efficiency. To enable our airports to respond to global changes and to provide quality services that exceed our customer expectations, we are in the process of corporatising all airports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. By corporatising the airports, independent professional airport managers will be able to introduce proven management practices and inject an enterprising spirit to increase operating efficiency and international competitiveness. With innovative financing schemes, the private sector will be attracted to invest and will provide enhanced food and beverage concessions, duty-free shopping, parking and hotels. Global airport economics demonstrate that lower aeronautical fees/charges leads to higher traffic levels. Attractive commodities and efficient services lead to greater airport revenues.

What are the most significant challenges facing GACA right now? What are your current priorities?
GACA has several challenges facing it as the regulator of the aviation industry in Saudi Arabia. Our most significant challenges are removing any obstacles facing the airlines, and changing the culture of GACA to a corporate culture that adopts a cost-benefit approach and promotes better customer service.

As for our current priorities, we aim to move forward with the implementation of sustainable mechanisms for the management of airports and their ownership, and method of financing them in terms of large investments in these airports. This can be achieved through corporatising all airports into independent companies. Therefore it is very important to establish a strategic partnership with the national carriers. As you know it has been demonstrated through international experience, that when airliners goals and strategies are aligned with those of the airports where it is based this will result in significant benefits to all parties and provide better services for the customers. Moreover safety has always been our top priority. Of equal importance is optimising the integration of ATM within the context of ICAO’s global plan initiatives and the corporatisation of all airports.

Civil-Military cooperation have been shown to deliver significant financial and operations benefits. What do you think can be done to encourage/facilitate it?
Both civil and military aviation operate in the same ATM environment and therefore use common airspace, which needs to be stringently managed for safety and efficiency. While military is essential for national security and defense, civil aviation is not only necessary for global interaction between nations but it also makes a significant contribution to the global economy. These two equally important activities call for uncompromising cooperation in the shared use of airspace and enduring understanding of each other’s requirements that calls for both a “top-down” and a “bottom-up” approach.

From the “top-down” - decision makers from both institutions must agree and initiate a model or mechanism for the employment of the Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) concept which demonstrates the need for close coordination and cooperation. Shared airspace equates to greater benefits for both parties.

From the “bottom-up” - operational sharing of knowledge and dynamic interaction of civil and military air traffic services including real-time controller-to-controller coordination and cooperation. This requires system support, operational procedures and adequate information sharing.

It has been said that air traffic management in the Middle East is facing a ‘capacity crunch’. Can you describe GACA’s efforts to address this challenge, both at a local and regional level?
At the local level, we have invested heavily on air traffic navigational aids and radar systems, which provide increased capacity by reducing separation requirements. We have developed and implemented new air routes to offset heavy use airways. We have re-sectored our Air Traffic Control ACC radar to better control the free flow of air traffic and have added additional manpower to reduce the workload on the present Air Traffic Controllers.

At the regional level, GACA plays a crucial role in regional initiatives that target capacity enhancement, new ATS routes that reduce route length, thus saving time and fuel, and the establishment of Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) recommended and called for by the ICAO Middle East Air Navigation Planning and Implementation Regional Group (MIDANPIRG) and the ICAO MID office.

What is CANSO’s role in helping GACA and other ANSPs in the region overcome these challenges?
CANSO’s mission statement for the Middle East region commits Members of the Middle East region and other stakeholders to work together to improve ATM through best practices and new technologies. CANSO has a “REDSEA” vision: Realise, Enhance, and Develop Seamless Efficient Airspace. The resulting benefit being improvement in capacity, performance, safety and efficiency not only in the Middle East but also globally.

CANSO promotes and supports Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA), new ATS route management, improved civil/military coordination, MID TMA management, improved communication infrastructure and the implementation of ATN.

What would you say to Middle East air traffic management organisations, which are currently not part of CANSO?
GACA urges all ANSP’s in the Middle East region to become Members of CANSO in order to realise the benefits being seen by ANSP’s worldwide. Through CANSO, we all can realise our vision of a seamless ATM both in the Middle East region and on a global level.
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