AIM Data Governance

The road from AIS to AIM offers some surprises, even when keeping the ICAO roadmap* at hand. Two turns not to miss are step 6, integrated database, and step 8, data model. Most people take them for granted: AIXM 5.1 database? Check! Well, it isn't that easy.

Since 2001, the AIS world has started its slow revolution towards AIM. AIM is about managing the flow of information from Data Originators to Data Users, ensuring safety, security, quality, integrity, completeness and timeliness. AIS therefore needs to know precisely about:

  • Actors: Data Originators, Providers and Users

  • User requirements;

  • Data definition and specification;

  • Expected quality levels;

  • What happens to data on its journey.

It is equally important to inspect, measure and monitor the entire process.

All these activities together cover half of ICAO's AIS to AIM roadmap (the other half being new AIS products). They form what IT professionals call Data Governance. Although the term hasn't been used much in AIM so far, Data Governance is an important subject matter in Information Technology since the 90s. The goal of Data Governance is to ensure that high quality data exists through the complete lifecycle of the data within an organisation.

Data Governance is too important to be left to IT experts: AIS managers and officers must be in charge of aeronautical data governance. This article focuses on two major components of Data Governance: Data Catalogue and Data Supply Chain.

Data Catalogue

Arguably, the essential step on the roadmap to AIM is step 6, “Integrated aeronautical information database”. All advanced AIS products and services rely on it. The AIM database holds the Truth, the definitive reference for production systems of AIP, NOTAM, charts, procedure design, PIB, and even for some other ATM systems.

Fair enough, but what data exactly do AIS maintain in this integrated database? Step 8, “Aeronautical information conceptual model”, gives us a starting point by defining a “data model” for aeronautical information. A data model is a definition of objects and concepts used in a given domain (for example, an airport has a name and identifier), and the relations between them (an airport owns 1 or more RWYs). When the roadmap was written, the data model was essentially AIXM 4.5; nowadays it is AIXM 5.1. Step 8 considers that new requirements “will be analysed and modelled if needed”. Step 6 tones down the idea of a universal data model: “The design of such a database will not be identical in all States or regions because local technical or functional requirements must be considered.” In conclusion, AIS around the world may need to customise the standard data model. How are they supposed to manage this customisation?

ICAO Doc 10066 (PANS-AIM) introduces the concept of aeronautical Data Catalogue: a list of information items and their properties, along with their definition and data quality requirements. It includes information that is already described in Annex 15 and PANS-AIM's AIP structure, and also some from other sources, such as Annex 4, Annex 14 and flight procedures.

A Data Catalogue is a central requirement of proper Data Governance. Establishing a custom AIM data catalogue should be the preliminary step before implementing an AIM database. A data catalogue can be as basic as a spreadsheet based on ICAO's own catalogues in PANS-AIM. Or, for functionality that is more specific to AIM, one can use Nilacandi's new service Facilis Catalog, an affordable software running on the Cloud.

Aeronautical Data Supply Chain

The AIS data process starts by collecting aeronautical data from Data Providers, then transforming it into aeronautical information, and publishing it for Data Users.AIM's paramount goal is to increase data quality throughout this process. ICAO Annex 15 defines data quality in terms of accuracy, resolution, integrity, traceability, timeliness, completeness and format, all this with respect to Data Users' requirements. All these quality aspects, and the process itself, are covered by Data Governance.

AIS can act on some of these only. AIS can ensure data integrity, traceability and timeliness, but only between collection and publication. Using a modern AIM system with proper Data Governance helps with functionality such as automatic data validation, completeness assessment, and monitoring. AIS has however hardly any leverage on accuracy, resolution and completeness. To ensure the highest quality standards, AIS needs to act at the source, and help Data Originators in providing the expected quality level.

More often than not, Data Originators ignore the accuracy, resolution, time constraints and the breadth of data that is expected from them. Many are not even part of the aeronautical community and have no sense of what AIS and AIM are really about. Let's help them help us!

Nilacandi offers a new breed of AIM software: an affordable Web application dedicated to collecting and managing aeronautical data. Its interface is easy to use, adapted to the various profiles of Data Originators. Users only see the data that matters to them. In the background, data is collected in AIXM 5.1 and other structured formats for easy processing towards AIS products and services. As this software runs on the Internet, there is no installation required, no expensive hardware to acquire, no demanding server room to equip, and no maintenance burdens. AIS personnel can at last focus on managing aeronautical information, and outsource technicalities to us. Even better, is a subscription-based service and thus requires no hefty initial investment. AIM software made easy.

Benoit Maisonny
Senior AIM Consultant Director

* Roadmap for the transition from AIS to AIM, ICAO, First Edition, 2009.

This article was first published in IFAIMA's newsletter n°2020-01.