For more than 20 years, “automation” has been the focus of the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) worldwide. The objective was to increase the quality and the efficiency of the service by using digital data from a common database for the production of the Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP), aeronautical charts, NOTAM messages and other AIS products. Through the European AIS Database (EAD) service, Eurocontrol has directly supported this effort by offering both tools and services enabling its clients to achieve the AIS automation goals.
Since November 2018, a revised ICAO Annex 15 and a new PANS-AIM document entered into force. The focus is now shifting from automating the traditional AIS products towards the provision of digital data sets, which will gradually replace parts of the current products. Five categories of data sets appear in the ICAO provisions:
- AIP data set – containing routes, points, navaids, airspace and limited airport and runway data, mostly data relevant for flight planning. When the AIP data set is provided, many tables from the ENR and AD parts of an AIP may be left empty, if the data is included in the digital data set;
- Obstacle data sets – organised in areas related to either the whole State territory or airports/runways;
- Instrument Flight Procedure data sets – containing digital data for Instrument Approach Procedures, SID and STAR;
- Airport Mapping data sets – containing the precise geometry and other physical characteristics of airport surfaces and associated features;
- Terrain data sets – organised similarly to the obstacle data sets, covering both the entire State territory and, with higher precision, the airport vicinity.
The provision of digital AIS data sets requires precise rules for the coding of each data element, in order to ensure that the recipients are able to process and use them in a seamless way. EUROCONTROL has taken the lead in the development of the necessary data coding specifications, using the Aeronautical Information Exchange Model (AIXM). The work is done with the support of aeronautical information specialists from both Europe and other interested States worldwide. The development of the coding rules is co-financed by the European Union, through the SESAR Deployment projects sponsored by INEA.
The AIP data set coding guidelines are now available for public review, through a dedicated web site. This includes a formal mapping of the ICAO provisions, coding rules for each subject and its properties and supporting material such as a fictitious ‘Donlon’ AIP Data Set.