AIS, delivering air navigation and safety related data has traditionally been a largely paper based system, taking little advantage of modern technologies. Happily, the development of IT and in particular of Internet technologies presented an opportunity for the Aeronautical Information Service to be updated to provide an improved service to users.
It is clear that opportunities also exist to take advantage of the information, which is routinely stored in integrated airport information systems to provide an expanded AIS service that could have great benefits both commercially and in terms of safety, regularity and efficiency.
Better use could be made of available data through:
·increased sharing of information between existing parties;
·sharing information between airports and other operators;
·widening the availability of data through use of internet technology, thus enabling relevant information to be shared with interested third parties.
The study considered examples of similar organisations that have moved from a purely service provision approach to the commercial exploitation of the raw data available to them. This move is unlikely to be resisted by the aviation community if real value was added to the information by the imaginative use and distribution of new information to a wider market.
It is clear that progressive airports are collecting a wide range of static and dynamic data relating to the operation of the airport. Stored data is made available to internal users and services to enhance the efficient operation of the airport. Furthermore the airports have a need for information external to the airport (e.g. MET and AIS info, AIP etc) which airports such as Bristol, Bahrain and Brussels have demonstrated can be integrated seamlessly into the central database.
The type of data available within the airport environment is clearly of value to the local users but for there to be a role for a "central" AIS function there would need to be a requirement for this data to be of external value. In addition there would need to be a requirement for centrally generated information to be published within the airport environment. We believe that both cases are valid.
Airport staff have often expressed the need for a wide range of information to assist with decision making and for service enhancement to passengers. For example, when a weather diversion is considered the aircraft operator requires far more information than traditionally supplied from AIS sources. Such information includes:
·Availability of Hotel rooms
·Availability of Coaches
·Aircraft Parking space available
·Ancillary handling equipment (steps, tugs etc)
Individual Airports publish this on their websites but it is evident that there is a strong requirement for a central availability and audit of such information.
There seems no doubt that internal airport information relating to the live movements of aircraft as well as schedule information could be exploited by third parties. Similarly, central information such as AIPs, charts, terrain data etc are relevant to flight crews at any airport. It has been observed that the opening of sources of data spawns uses and efficiencies that were not previously considered or anticipated. This effect has been witnessed in many other industries and services.
The television based Teletext service. This was introduced to Europe in the form of Ceefax during the 1970’s. Prior to this most information had to be obtained from libraries or enquiry by telephone or letter to individual organisations. Teletext is now a part of the everyday support infrastructure and fabric of Western society.
The Internet has already attained a more elevated status than Teletext and since the original study has become as much a way of life as television. The availability of such a wide range of information fuels further requirements for more sources of data. An effective, well-equipped AIS should be able to deliver richer, more accurate and more timely data.
Impact on AIS
The predicted growth of Air Transport will ensure that customer relationship management, the need to ensure that customer expectations are met and exceeded, will become pivotal in the extremely competitive aviation marketplace. Customer relationship management will therefore increasingly become a critical issue for the growth and success of aviation organisations.
Unless strategic action is taken, the ramping demands on the air transport infrastructure will inevitably lead to reduced levels of customer care being applied to the travelling public.
The shifting paradigm of technology management and information distribution has become a major challenge for aviation companies. Technology is rapidly evolving. Information is becoming the key driver of business profits. How information is managed will determine the success or failure of many business sectors. This evolving technology and the development of future applications could help ensure that the customer travel experience becomes more not less pleasant.
The new developments in information and communications technology present opportunities for development of AIS both in terms of improved functionality and broadening of scope.
An organisation based on the AIS would be well placed to play a pivotal role in the delivery of improved services in this regard. It seems very appropriate that the raw data sources that the organisation has available to it, be employed to deliver improved service levels to the end-user wherever possible. Combine this with data generated locally at individual airports and the AIS function has the potential to expand into a Central Information Service. Such an organisation could provide a flow of static and dynamic data, significantly beyond traditional AIS boundaries, to a wider aviation community and associated service providers.
Many have abandoned the airport Flight Briefing Units in favour of internal systems developed by third parties such as BYTRON who have been able to provide a level of service and information integration not available from traditional sources. Whilst this is clearly satisfying the requirements of the aircraft operators, it must raise questions regarding the validity and origin of essential information. Aircraft operators have a need for standardised systems that provide their crews with a reliable delivery system, tailored, integrated information set, and a high level of customer service An operational one-stop-shop for all pre-flight information..
In this context there is no reason why the AIS should not be treated as a business with various distribution channels designed to get the service to its customer audience.
AIS as a central information management service
The State AIS function is already a well established and respected provider of safety and navigation related information. It should exploit that position and modernise the method employed for the distribution of traditional AIS information.
Traditional AIS Information
The present provisions of the Aeronautical Information Service as defined in ICAO annex 15 is fundamentally that information which is essential to flight safety. Means of distribution are by paper and text messages over AFTN and more recently distribution by CD-Rom, VPN and Internet availability.
Integrated airport Information systems utilising up-to-date database and communications technologies are in use and under development. Much of the information stored in these databases (such as NOTAMs) is the same as that provided by AIS. Modern technology would allow for one or more centralised AIS databases of NOTAM, Met, and AIPs to which airport databases could have automatic access. This should include a two way transfer of data allowing AIS access to airport generated material for update of the AIP and also dynamic information on the status of aircraft movements. The AIP information provided from AIS should include all participating states and not be restricted to the home state.
Changes to the airport generated information such as terrain updates, chart changes, airport facility changes, should be automatically replicated to the state database making the data immediately available to others.
Existing airport information systems already provide links between a variety of airport systems containing data that may impact upon AIS. An automated link to the most up-to-date airport information could improve the quality and timeliness of AIS information. Examples might include links to building management or GIS systems, which could provide obstacle or terrain data to AIS.
It is clear that once airport information systems are linked to a modernised AIS service it would be possible to broaden the scope of AIS to include additional data which might provide further benefits to airport operators.
Material required by a pilot before flight includes weather information, NOTAMs and AIP information such as charts for the planned route and possible diversions. These can be obtained form a number of sources. Many airports and airlines provide IT facilities in dedicated flight briefing rooms to generate flight-briefing packs for the aircrew. In many cases a pilot will have the option of using airport provided or airline provided facilities to collect such information. It is possible that uncontrolled sources such as Internet web-sites may be used.
There is no standardisation of such systems, and there are a number of sources of data, including that published by NATS in the UK and commercially produced material such as Jeppesen’s. The need for reliable, high quality, user friendly material is recognised by all users of such data. Clearly it is important for flight safety that all information in flight briefing packs is accurate and up-to-date. However there are known instances where information from two data sources has differed, raising the possibility of compromises in flight safety.
It was clear that reliability of data, both in terms of accuracy and availability is valuable to users. Paper copies are always available as a back up in case electronic systems fail. Any alternative means of providing essential aeronautical information must be extremely reliable.
Possible Communication Method – The eCommerce Benchmark
Internet technologies are developing rapidly, particularly in the arena of sharing information between different organisations. The progression eCommerce capabilities is allowing large organisations to source and order parts and raw materials from a range of suppliers at the most competitive rates. Similarly, suppliers are able to tailor their production to meet the demands of the customer. This is being achieved by the mutual opening up of information held in company databases, either as static information or as dynamically changing data.
Middleware exists today to facilitate this sharing of data and progress is being made in establishing a standard for XML mark up of data types. It is not necessary for all participants to use a common database structure, it is possible, using existing technology, to allow a central AIS database access to airport generated data. This in turn could be made available to external subscribers either nationally or internationally.
External Uses of Airport Generated Data
There are numerous applications that are immediately apparent. Both Bahrain and Brussels have demonstrated the efficiencies to be gained by the sharing of operational information amongst internal agencies, it seems a logical next step to extend this exchange beyond the local level. Knowledge of schedules and actual DEP/ARR times of other airports is essential information to handling agents, airlines and ATC units. Whilst this information is available by the use of pragmatic approaches such as the use of AFTN/SITA messaging, the opportunities presented by open access to timely information are immense.
This should not be limited to the traditional users of airport information. Hotels, taxi companies, rail services, catering companies, general public, emergency services all have a requirement for elements of this information. The availability of this data via the internet in a tailored form, either by web access or by direct data exchange would inevitably enhance the efficiency of the air transport system for many users extending beyond the traditional boundaries.
On board aircraft, seat back displays could have data pushed to them by the AIS. Displays could show up to date destination information of specific relevance to the passengers on that flight. For example car hire, hotels, connecting flights, coaches, shuttle bus schedule and positioning etc. Disembarking passengers would then be better equipped to handle the next stage of their journey. The travelling public, equipped with wireless devices could be able to access the latest up to the minute information relevant to their individual travel plans.
The AIS brand could come to represent the standard by which other service/data providers are judged. Information is becoming ubiquitous, the challenge is to establish and maintain standards for information integrity.
The State AIS function is already a well established and respected provider of safety and navigation related information. It should exploit that position and expand on the traditional information services offered using modern methods of distribution.