Saudi Arabia’s government is complementing its ambitious air transport expansion programmes with an effort to increase airspace efficiency.

The Saudi air navigation service SANS oversees some 2 million km² of airspace, controlling traffic primarily through two area centres.

SANS has reached a provisional agreement on collaborating with UK counterpart NATS on initiatives to support increased capacity, in line with the kingdom’s ‘Vision 2030’ economic transformation scheme.

“Over the next decade [the Saudi government] plans to create new airports, airspace, airlines and infrastructure to increase their passenger numbers to at least 300 million a year,” says NATS chief executive Martin Rolfe.

He says the two sides aim to concentrate on a sustainable approach to maximising capacity, through the introduction of new technologies and air traffic management techniques.

Saudi Arabia airspace-c-SANS

Source: SANS

SANS oversees a vast area of airspace

NATS has close ties with the Spanish air traffic control specialist Indra, which is also connected with the Saudi airspace modernisation.

Indra is working with SANS to develop the use of remote air traffic towers in the kingdom.

Under the partnership Indra is installing the initial virtual tower at Al-Ula airport, in the northwest of the country.

SANS and Indra are also basing a future strategic partnership on virtual tower initiatives, for both regional and broader markets.

The Saudi air navigation provider has also developed a maintenance management system, and newly reached a commercial marketing pact for it with French aerospace firm Thales.

Saudi Arabia’s government is investing heavily in its air transport sector, with the creation of a new national airline at the capital, Riyadh, and an extensive expansion of the city’s airport, while also supporting further development of Jeddah-based flag-carrier Saudia.

Through its international arm CAAi the UK Civil Aviation Authority is supporting the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation with a new partnership to assess and enhance the kingdom’s safety regulatory frameworks.

CAAi says the Saudi regulator has commenced an aviation standards optimisation programme intended to apply “world-leading” standards to its operations.