Emirates operates 525 seat double-decker A380 aircraft
EMIRATES, the state-owned airline, has strategised its plans of using a pair of runways in the desert at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest international airport as a massive transfer hub for long-haul flights, even as it embraced the 525-seat double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft.
The airline, the biggest operator of the superjumbo, already flies 60 of the planes and intends to increase its fleet to 140.
However, Dubai is opening a new airport concourse that will increase passenger capacity by 25 percent, to 90 million a year.
That’s still 10 million passengers short of the passenger traffic the airport is forecast to reach by 2020. Dubai is also trying to improve its scheduling to operate more jumbos.
The planes are so big and their four engines so powerful that they leave potentially dangerous turbulence in their wake. So A380s need to land at least seven nautical miles ahead of smaller jets following behind.
The A380 is basically a flying weather system, with its 261-foot wings throwing off hurricane-strength winds.
Under current international guidelines, even a Boeing 747 must maintain a six-nautical-mile gap with Airbus’s 560-ton colossus on takeoff and landing. Smaller craft, such as the Boeing 737, need a seven-mile gap. “We’ve got to understand more about the wake vortex.
“It’s a critical goal for us”, said Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths. Emirates clusters flights of its A380s and 143 Boeing 777 widebodies into three daily waves at Dubai, allowing the airport to keep as many smaller jets as possible from following larger ones.
Even then the A380 requires a 12 percent increase in plane separations when operating between two 777s vs. the necessary distance between aircraft in a string of the smaller widebody jets.
While that translates into lost flights per day at crowded Dubai Airport, neither airport authorities nor Emirates will say how many.
Airbus says its analysis concludes that each A380 carries so many more passengers than other jets that airports still come out ahead in the total number of travelers they can shuttle through in a 24-hour period.
In Europe, where crowded airports are also looking for ways to cram in more landings, aviation authorities recently authorized reducing separations from seven to six miles for all planes following an A380.
So far only Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport has adopted the tighter spacing. Dubai is conducting its own studies to see how it can reduce separations safely, but continues to follow existing International Civil Aviation Organization standards.
In April, the airport began a six-month trial based on the new European spacing standards. For now, Dubai is making the most of current rules.
“We’re doing all the sensible and clever things you ought to do to get these aircraft away in the right sequence,” says Chris Garton, executive vice president for airport operations at Dubai Airports. “We put the little one in front and the heavy one behind it. It’s a no-brainer.”