This would require reduced separation standards that are not yet approved. The airport has launched a “big exercise to gather data” about what separation can be achievable and hopes to also be able to introduce the ground based augmentation system to allow more precise navigation close to the airport. Griffiths says Dubai Airports plans to present ICAO with “a view of what makes sense.” He stresses that there is a huge incentive to achieve closer separations because of the high density of A380 operations.
Airbus says it is already working with Eurocontrol as part of the Single European Sky ATM Research Program (Sesar) to re-categorize wake-turbulence separation minimums and believes this could lead to reduced separation behind A380s. The manufacturer conducted its last wake vortex data collection campaign in 2010.
Dubai International has to handle three concentrated peaks daily—between midnight and 2 a.m.; 8-10 a.m.; and noon-2.30 p.m.—which is when Emirates connects most of its flights. Airport capacity has been strained even further by the advent of low-fare carrier FlyDubai operating out of Terminal 2. There has been talk about moving FlyDubai to al-Makhtoum International, the first stage of which is already operational. But Griffiths says this does not provide an overall solution,” although it would give Emirates approximately 18 months of additional growth.
Emirates, which is vehemently opposed to splitting its hub, does not plan to move to the new airport until the facility can accommodate the entire operation. Strategically, the city's airport challenge is therefore becoming bigger everyday: The old airport needs to expand further and the new one has to be expanded in parallel—with no adequate use in the interim—before the big switch can be made sometime in the next decade. It is also hard to justify the billions in further investment at Dubai International for only a relatively short period of time.
One option would be to add a third runway at Dubai International, which would allow the airport more growth over an extended period and enable it to better amortize the huge investment. But where could it be placed? The field is surrounded by residential areas and business districts; the old town center of Deira is nearby. The only viable location is toward the northeast on the other side of the Emirates Engineering hangars. But even there, massive relocations would be needed and, Griffiths says, it is not a very likely option.