City: Dubai

Country: United Arab Emirates

Status: Major UAE financial center

Country visa requirement: Transit visas good for seven days can be obtained on arrival for passengers holding valid passports from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico; the European Union and most other non-E.U. nations on the Continent; Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia; passengers from other countries must apply for visas in advance. Visits longer than seven days require visas issued prior to arrival. Operating crewmembers with valid passports and crew IDs do not require visas. (Relief crewmembers arriving via airline are treated as passengers.) Crew IDs must be hard-plastic laminated (airport-issued IDs not acceptable) and include company name, expiration date and crew position. Crewmembers also must be uniformed. If any of these requirements are not met, crewmembers will not be permitted entry into the UAE.

Landing permit requirement: Yes; minimum two business days required for application.

Sponsor letter required: No

Aircraft documents required: Standard documentation, e.g., airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, insurance certificate with country coverage, etc.

Any other requirements for visiting aircraft: No

Carbon trading requirement: No

ATC procedures: ICAO

Any unique procedures: No

Altimetry: QNH

Metric or feet: Feet

RVSM: Yes

WGS 84-compliant: Yes

Local navigator required: No

Airport 1Name & ICAO identifier: Dubai International Airport (OMDB)

Coordinates: 25° 15.2' N, 55° 21.9' E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 60 ft.

Runways: 12L/30R, 13,123 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt (PCN: 122FBXE); 12R/30L, 13,123 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt (PCN: 065FBXU)

Slots: Yes

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: Execujet Aviation Group, Executive Flight Center, Jet Aviation

Clear CIQ at: FBOs

Parking: At FBOs, if ramp space is available; otherwise remotely on the airport, requiring considerable taxi time during periods of congestion.

Hangarage: Yes

Fuel: Jet-A1

Credit: Fuel cards

Maintenance: Yes, most business jet types

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Emirates Airlines or local hotels (the latter highly rated for catering)

Fees: Runway fees claimed to be “reasonable.”

Security: Rated excellent.

Ground transportation: All types

Distance and driving time to downtown: 2 sm/3 km

Airport 2Name & ICAO identifier: Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport (OMDW)

Coordinates: 24° 55.1' N, 55° 10.5' E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 170 ft.

Runways: 12/30, 14,764 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt. (When this airport, which is linked into an intermodal transportation system involving the Dubai seaport and a superhighway connecting the two, is completed, it is projected to be the world's largest airport, featuring five parallel runways of equal length oriented 12/30 and separated by 2,600 ft.)

Slots: No

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: Aviation Services Management

Clear CIQ at: FBO

Parking: FBO; no parking issues at the present time, as airport is in development.

Hangarage: Yes

Fuel: Jet-A1

Credit: Yes, fuel cards

Maintenance: No; available at Dubai International

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Arranged by FBO, as most hotels are located in downtown Dubai.

Fees: Vary

Security: Rated excellent.

Ground transportation: All types

Distance and driving time to downtown: 22 sm/35 km

Airport 3Name & ICAO identifier: Sharjah International Airport (OMSJ)

Coordinates: 25° 19.7' N, 55° 31' E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 111 ft.

Runways: 12/30, 13,330 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt (PCN: 056FAXU)

Slots: No

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: No; VIP lounge at passenger terminal and handling agencies located in Sharjah Free Trade Zone next to terminal.

Clear CIQ at: Passenger terminal

Parking: Terminal area; no issues involving parking.

Hangarage: No

Fuel: Jet-A1

Credit: Fuel cards

Maintenance: No; available at Dubai International.

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Arranged via handler.

Fees: Vary

Security: Rated good

Ground transportation: All types

Distance and driving time to downtown: 8 sm/13 km; avoid rush hours, if possible, as traffic congestion can cause lengthy delays.

BCA appreciates the assistance of Skyplan International in the preparation of this report.

It could be argued that the competition among oil-rich Persian Gulf nations to outdo one another with ever-larger public works and private-sector projects has reached its zenith in Dubai.

The city, poised on the northern shore of the Musandam Peninsula (that separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman, barely 100 sm from Iran across the Strait of Hormuz), currently boasts both the highest building and what may become the largest airport in the world. The former, of course, is the minaret-like Burj Khalifa (star of the latest “Mission Impossible” film), at 2,722 ft., nearly 1,000 ft. higher than New York's 1 World Trade Center tower. And the latter, as yet not as well known outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is Al Maktoum International Airport, which when completed, will feature five parallel runways measuring nearly 15,000 ft. each.

Both of these edifices are emblematic of the economic course that Dubai's government has chosen to navigate the emirate away from oil revenues and into real estate and construction, tourism, shipping and high finance. The reason: Its proven oil reserves are expected to be depleted within 20 years. Currently, oil accounts for only 7% of Dubai's revenues. Al Maktoum International Airport, for example, is being developed as part of an intermodal transportation system and is linked via a new highway with Dubai's seaport. While the original conception for the airport has been scaled back since the 2008 recession and the field remains uncompleted, the facility will serve primarily as an air cargo shipping and receiving point. In the meantime, Dubai International Airport (OMDB) remains the city's primary field.

Dubai, of course, is both a city and one of the seven emirates constituting the UAE federation. The city's population stands at approximately 3.8 million people, only 19% of whom are UAE citizens, the remainder (as in Qatar) being expatriates from other countries. Its now-diversified economy is a magnet attracting international business, foreign investment and tourism, the last accounting for the rocketing growth of Dubai-based Emirates Airlines (on its way to being one of the largest carriers in the world) and elevating Dubai International Airport to 15th busiest in the world.

No Permits Necessary But File Early If You Want to Park

Not surprisingly then, Dubai is a popular destination for business aviation, and at any given time, dozens of business jets can be seen parked at the main airport's three FBOs. As a sign that this global city welcomes visitors eager to do business, only prior arrival notification is required and landing permits are unnecessary. Handlers, however, stress the importance of filing early if operators desire to keep their aircraft at Dubai International Airport rather than depositing passengers and repositioning to another field in the UAE (or out of the country), as access is actually tied to availability of parking.

“Submit your schedule, and they will issue landing permission at Dubai International based on availability of parking stands at the airport,” Jess Gassaway, an account manager at the Colt International flight planning and handling service in Houston, told BCA. “The FBOs at OMDB are Jet Aviation, Executive Flight Center and Execujet — these are where the parking stands are located. You do not need tow bars, as FBOs are well established, very new and well equipped. They are similar to a U.S. facility. But it's very important to give advance notice to secure a spot.”

Likewise, the UAE does not require visas (see “City at a Glance” for details), but both passengers and crew must hold valid passports and crewmembers are required to display valid crew IDs. “IBAC [the International Business Aviation Council] can issue them for a reasonable fee,” Keith Dixon, who oversees training and development at Colt, reminded readers. “With best practice, you are looking at a 48-hr. advance notice,” Dixon continued, “but be aware that their work week is Sunday through Thursday, so don't file on Friday [when Muslims go to mosque].”

At Dubai International Airport, customs comes to the FBOs and clears passengers there. “Unfortunately, the fuel farm is located on the opposite side of the airport from the general aviation area, and their first priority is fueling Emirates Airlines,” Gassaway said. “We recommend taking on fuel on arrival, as you can wait up to 90 min. for a fuel truck.”

Addressing the competition for fueling at OMDB, Mark Keiswetter, a charter pilot based in Doha, Qatar, who often flies a Hawker 900 to Dubai, added that “There are multiple service providers in Dubai, and we'll often tell them, 'Whichever truck gets here first gets the sale!'” Other than that, Keiswetter claimed, “Dubai has good equipment and good people and a good system in place that's efficient.”

Bart Gault, an independent contract pilot typed in several long-range business jets with considerable experience flying into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, noted that the “big difference” between the two locations is that “Dubai is much more security-conscious. In Dubai, you have to have a security clearance just to go to the airplane — and it takes 12 to 24 hr. to get one. This applies only if you want access to the aircraft during your stay. Departing, you can go to the airplane without the security clearance, but seldom will they allow you to go back inside the terminal after that.”

OMDB is an extremely busy airport, Gault emphasized. “It will take some time to get fueled, as the fuelers work on a schedule to feed a lot of airplanes. You may be able to fuel on arrival, but don't count on it. If a passenger is late arriving, the flight plan can be amended; however, if a passenger arrives early and wants to leave early, you may run into the fueling problem. My SOP was to be at the airport no less than an hour and a half to 2 hr. prior to departure.”

‘Taxiing Issues’

Dubai International is equipped with a pair of 13,123-ft.-long runways oriented 12/30. Like many fields in the Middle East, OMDB is huge with lots of real estate to be traversed getting to or from a runway. Thus, Gault said, there can be “taxiing issues” at the airport. “They try to limit one runway for takeoffs and one for landings, meaning that you will have a long taxi — 10 or 15 min. — to or from the FBOs. Your arrivals will be converted to vectors for direct approaches — or at least that's been my experience at Dubai. ATC may assign speed restrictions due to the mixed traffic.”

Catering is available at the airport by Emirates Airlines and from luxury hotels downtown. Dixon pointed out that congestion at OMDB is often tied into public events taking place in Dubai, so it's a good idea to plan your trips well in advance, noting the events schedule. It can take 45 min. to an hour to get downtown from the airport, which is about 30 sm away.

ICAO procedures are applied across the board in the UAE. Arriving, “you may have to hold, depending on the time of day,” Gassaway said. “There's lots of traffic from and to Europe . . . much of it generated by Emirates Airlines, which has completed a new terminal at OMDB — Number Three — just for its own use.

“There are preferred routings between the UAE and Europe,” he continued, “some of which are one way, so be careful in your flight planning. Entry points may not match for overflight and landing, so FIRs and entry points have to be spot-on. [See Jeppesen data for preferred routes.] Going from London, many operators still use Turkey and Iran for overflights. Iran, actually, is fairly liberal in issuing overflight permission.”

If no parking is available at OMDB, operators will most likely be deviated over to the new airport, Al Maktoum International-Dubai World Center (OMDW). It currently hosts a single FBO, Executive Flight Center. “There has been talk of moving general aviation from Dubai International to the new airport, and the other two FBOs at OMDB will have to build facilities there,” Dixon said. Perhaps as a harbinger of that, this month the fourth Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) conference and exposition is taking place at the new airport.

As “higher costs will apply” if operators are required to reposition their aircraft from Dubai International to Al Maktoum, Dixon recommended a third airport in the emirate, nearby Sharjah International (OMSJ, immediately northeast on the Gulf coast), as an option for parking, adding that, in non-rush-hour traffic, “there are good highways to get you into town in 20 min. The terminal has been redone and is more general aviation-friendly. But be advised that between 1600 and 1800, it can be very congested due to Emirates Airlines traffic.”

Finally, Gault offered some props for the UAE's ATC establishment, which despite the congestion that affects the system, is often able to be flexible with transiting operators. “ATC will work it out — I've never had a long delay due to ATC issues. Recently we did a tech stop at Dubai on a flight between Ahmedabad, India, and London, and the flight plan filed in India had a mistake in it. ATC discovered the error and offered to make the adjustment while we were taxiing. At most airports, they wouldn't do that.” BCA

For a deeper discussion, see “Business Aviation in the UAE,” BCA, December 2010, page 58.