Provision of Operational Aeronautical Information

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Provision of Operational Aeronautical Information

21ST ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 3-7 May 1982

WP No. 16

Provision of Operational Aeronautical Information


At the 1981 Conference in Cairo a late paper on this subject was considered briefly and referred back to SC 1 for detailed study and action.

Whilst this subject may at first sight seem to be of little direct interest to ATC, SC 1 considers that implementation of the proposals put forward in the 1981 paper would benefit ATC considerably. The paper itself would also be most useful as guidance material for MA’s on a subject not previously dealt with by IFATCA. The detailed requirements of the MA’s for the display of operational aeronautical information will, of course, vary from unit to unit according to local requirements. However, the development of broadly based policy along the lines proposed in the paper would be of considerable value both to IFATCA , in its international activities, and to individual MA’s.

To conclude

The IFATCA 81 paper should now be considered in more detail by conference with a view to its adoption as guidance material and to the development of IFATCA policy.

The paper is therefore submitted as Annex A to this WP. The only amendments which have been made to the content of the Cairo paper are :

a) deletion of Conclusions 3.17 to 3.19;
b) editorial changes to the recommendations at para 4;
c) editorial changes to para 3 of the draft policy statement in the Attachment.

Annex A – The Handling of the Aeronautical Information Data


On the occasion of the 1981 Annual Conference in Cairo, Philips’ Telecommunicatie Industrie BV submits this working paper on The Handling of Aeronautical Information Data for discussion in Committee B and to become IFATCA policy in supporting an efficient provision of aeronautical information service to airspace users before flight and of flight information service to airspace users in flight. This subject should be put on the IFATCA work programme and policy on the handling of aeronautical information data in the air navigation services system should be developed.

This general paper, covering aeronautical information data handling aspects, especially for the aeronautical information service (AIS) and the flight information service (FIS) seeks to achieve this objective.

The discussion section presents, in outline, an appreciation of the requirements on the use of information data in the air navigation services system, highlighting data presentation aspects for selection by air traffic services personnel.


IFALPA has formulated policy on the provision of operational flight information service (OFIS) to airspace users. Operational flight information in fact constitutes aeronautical information as submitted to airspace users before and in flight by the air traffic services units of the air navigation services system. IFALPA OFIS requirements have been presented to ICAO, who has issued corresponding recommendations during the 9th. Air navigation conference in 1976.


IFATCA has not yet formulated policy on the handling of aeronautical information data. There is also no information material available on this subject. In 1979 at the Brussels conference a presentation was given on the subject of aeronautical information data by a corporate member, followed by an ICAO article on the same subject in 1980.

Philips and AFTN

The Philips organisation has been closely associated with the development of telecommunication facilities for civil aviation for over 50 years and manufactures AFTN data switching systems (Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network). As an advisor to the Automated Data Interchange System Panel (ADISP) of ICAO , the company has assisted in the formulation of standards and recommended practices.


The ADIS Panel , established by the ICAO Air Navigation Commission in 1967 to study and prepare recommendations for formalised standards and guidance material, dealt with the development, application and operation of an international ground to ground automated data interchange system for the exchange of aeronautical messages between data processors.

Special attention was given to the international automated air to ground data interchange system compatible with the ground to ground system. As a result of the panels work, the concept of a Common ICAO Data Interchange Network (CIDIN) was proposed for international consideration.

The implementation of this digital communications network will open the way for co-ordinated interconnection of the many essential services, which support national and international flight safety.

In General

The air navigation services system generally requires three categories of data for fulfilment of its operational functions and tasks;

(1) flight plan and progress data;
(2) aircraft positional information and
(3) aeronautical information data.

The handling of flight plan data, flight progress data and aircraft positional information is fairly well covered by regulations, and ICAO policy exists in the for, of standards and recommended practices. This is not the case with aeronautical information data, especially in respect to their availability at air traffic services unit working positions and to their presentation to the air traffic services personnel.

To the group of aeronautical data belong :

  • notices to airmen;
  • flight safety messages;
  • aeronautical information publication data;
  • air navigation services system internal information;
  • meteorological data;
  • operational and technical status data on system, facility and equipment status.

Statement of Problem

Airspace users have a requirement for provision of OFIS before flight and during flight. For civil airspace users, who conduct scheduled operations this requirement has been put forward by IFALPA to ICAO in the form of OFIS – Requirements. For the civilian airspace user, who conducts non-scheduled and for the military airspace user, who uses civil air traffic services no such requirement has been put forward as yet, despite the fact that it exists.

This requirement implies :

    • that airspace users need operational aeronautical information;
    • that operational information is to be provided by the air navigation services system;
    • that the air traffic services personnel has the task to retrieve, select and relay this information.

Air traffic services personnel, however, cannot efficiently do this, because they lack rapid access to correct aeronautical information data. They, therefore, must be put into a position to be able to provide these data before and during flight, i.e. they must be given the means of ‘retrieving’, ‘perceiving (presentation)’ and ‘selecting’ such data, before relaying them to airspace users.

The lack of current, correct and conclusive information is perhaps one of the greatest stress factors with the air traffic control environment today. The air traffic controller is constantly under pressure to make real-time decisions without the benefit of real-time information. He often does not have information upon which he could depend as being current, correct and conclusive, and is therefore forced in far too many instances to make ‘judgement decisions’. Believing that information and data, which he is going to provide to pilots or in making his own control decisions, are correct. The air traffic control environment would be less stressful and certainly more efficient, if all the information normally required by the operator was at hand, current and available at his console or working position. This ready availability of information is especially critical in situations of emergency, where the controllers calmness and correct and quick responses are vital. Since pilot requests are to be fulfilled quickly. Because when data and information are requested, they are needed ‘now’ and not ‘later’., these data must be available immediately. In many a case have urgency and emergency situations developed in civil and military aviation, because such data were not readily available to pilots through controllers. On the other hand serious stress conditions have developed for controllers, because such data were not immediately available to them.


The air traffic services personnel must know or have immediately available, information relevant to emergency procedures, weather, air routes, radio frequencies, etc. For his own area of responsibility and for all airports within his area of jurisdiction, as well as for adjacent areas and airports. They must be able to recite all facts relevant to restricted areas, such as restrictions on routes, altitudes, times, speeds, notices to airmen and so on, which their mind is clogged full of, data that they may never use during their tour of duty. Although a competent operator may be able to memorise static facts like area restrictions and limitations or air route tracks, reporting points, navigational aids and frequencies thereof, he cannot be expected to remember all of these facts and data about all of the air routes in and adjacent to his area immediately. Further, a controller should not have to leave his console to get any information he needs to make decisions, nor have to rely on personal judgement to compensate for lack of information, neither should there be any undue delay in procuring needed information, which constitutes operational flight information to airspace users. Such data normally have to be available in ready on hand papers at the controller working position or in his memory. It is a well known fact that it is impossible for man under stress conditions to have all these data immediately ready, when needed. On the other hand applicable documents and publications that can be referred to are not always up to date.

Additionally, when data are available, they are normally not in a form easily to perceive or are not pre-sorted, which causes trouble in selecting required data. Many times several data sources have to be used in order to fulfil only one request by a pilot.

This problem does also exist at other air navigation services system facilities, like for instance aeronautical information service briefing offices. Here aircrew personnel is confirmed with a lot of hard copy information, which is not sorted to their specific requirements (areas, route).

Aeronautical Information Data Requirement

All systems have to be planned, specified and implemented for operation by man, especially in air traffic control, because MAN is the most important part in the system and its back-up in case system components fail. His job descriptions are related to the air traffic services to be provided, system functions to be performed, operational tasks to be fulfilled and working position duties to be performed. To enable a system to provide air traffic services requires the performance of different air traffic services system functions, like planning control, executive control, co- ordination, supervision, flight data assistance, radio operation, simulation and training. The controller in performing these system functions has to alert, inform, advise, co-ordinate and control.

In order to fulfil system functions and operational tasks man needs information and data. More traffic means more data. Sometimes equipment is manufactured to accept much more data than man can handle himself. Therefore, data must be presented to him in a suitable way to enable him to act as an interface, besides his major role of commanding and controlling , i.e. managing the system.

Data Necessity

The different aeronautical information data categories, notices to airmen, flight safety messages, aeronautical information publication data, air navigation services system internal information, meteorological data and operational and electrical status data cover a variety of operational necessities.

Depending on the size and complexity of an air traffic services system, different values and categories of such data are required for presentation to the controller and to other operators in and connected with the system, such as airline despatch offices. Among the six before mentioning categories over one hundred and fifty different data types can be determined, for example, reporting point, holding pattern airspace area, route, aircraft emergency data and so on.

Information data , like reporting point. Holding pattern, departure route and arrival route, which include magnetic tracks, distances, navigational aids, altitudes, restrictions and times, and are necessary to be able to instruct pilots in to detail about the correct procedures. Often, their required to clarify misunderstandings misinterpretation or lack of knowledge on the part of the pilot or the controller, following re-clearances. Reporting point data, including identification and navigational aids, are necessary for pilots in case of re-routings, for information on proper position reporting and on co-ordinates for use by self-contained navigation systems onboard aircraft.

Aircraft type performance and emergency data, including abbreviations, radio telephony classifications, service ceilings, and both horizontal and vertical normal and abnormal speeds, are needed mainly for controller support, especially during aircraft emergencies. In these circumstances, there is no time to acquire from pilots essential information on the performance of various types of aircraft under the existing emergency circumstances. In the event of radio communication failure, the situation becomes even more critical.

ICAO location indicators, airline operator and radio call signs are needed for air traffic services internal use only. Since there are a vast number of airline operator and ICAO location indicator abbreviations, used in teleprinter messages and on flight progress strips, from which controllers have to transform radio call sign, departure and destination as well as alternate aerodrome names, wrong call signs and aerodrome names can cause confusion in the control of air traffic.

Air traffic services data should be available because civil and military MET, AIS and ATS personnel are not always familiar with the dimensions of all of the various areas concerned, with the hours of operation and with any existing restrictions related to weather or other conditions (NOTAM) prevailing in or close to these areas.

The same applies for special use airspace portions (e.g. temporary reserved areas, danger areas, restricted areas, etc.)

Aerodrome information including all pertinent data on runways, co-ordinates, elevation, instrument navigation aids, fuel available, hours of operation and restrictions, should always be available in case of planned and unforeseen diversions to alternates. It is then , with the time pressing, when such data are needed, but are normally not immediately available. Instrument navigational aid data, including type, identification, range, frequency, co-ordinates, service volume and elevation, should be available to controllers for relay to pilots in cases of re-routings of flights away from planned routes to avoid the need for any lengthy data search – either on the ground or in the cockpit.

Minimum safe altitude, the appropriate air traffic services unit, search and rescue and local emergency procedures are critical support data, which controllers relay to pilots (e.g. during radar vectoring off routes) and adhere to during emergency situations, while performing alerting service during phases of uncertainty, alert and distress and handling other urgency cases.

Radar site operation and ATS subsystem outage and malfunction data are needed mainly for system control and performance monitoring, as well as by controllers for their planning on the type of separation to be applied in the immediate future and the amount of traffic to be accepted. This applies to cases of radar equipment outage or degraded mode of operation, radio telephony equipment malfunction and ATS subsystem malfunction.

Repetitive flight plan data are best stored in a data bank for easy access, correction and retrieval by AIS offices, aerodrome control towers, approach control offices, area control centres, flight information centres as well as military dispatch offices.

Weather reports and forecasts must be available for all routes, areas and aerodromes under jurisdiction in a pre-sorted form to facilitate selection by ATS personnel for relay to the airspace users. The same is true for notices to airmen.

Data Sources

Static data sources for these data are mainly publications, like AIP’s system internal letters of agreement, pre-flight bulletins at AIS offices, departure and arrival plates, terminal and route charts and notices to airmen.

Sources for the semi-dynamic data are the aeronautical fixed telecommunication network (AFTN), the global telecommunication system of the WMO (in Europe the MOTNE circuits) and other similar telex and teletype systems.

Sources for dynamic data are various air navigation services subsystems, like the radar subsystem, the direction finder subsystem and so on.

Data Users

Three general groups of users can be determined. These involve airspace user facilities, air navigation services and other aviation facilities.

Airspace user personnel, such as dispatchers and pilots, need information data for the performance of their duties at facilities such as airline dispatch offices and their traffic operations centres, aviation weather service flying units, flight facility checking units, flying schools, and search and rescue units.

Air navigation services personnel, such as aeronautical telecommunications service operators, aeronautical information service personnel, aeronautical technical maintenance personnel, flight service station operators, air traffic controllers and flight data assistants require these data for fulfilment of operational tasks at their facilities.

Other aviation personnel, such as flight meteorologists, flying school instructors, landing sit air supervisors, ramp controllers, airport company operations specialists, etc. Can efficiently use these data at their facilities. Such personnel can be divided into air navigation service system internal and external users, requiring different hardware and presentation. Internal users have specific requirements for displays and data presentation. Especially working positions for the performance of aeronautical information service, flight information service and air traffic control service have specific requirements for the retrieval, perception and selection of aeronautical information data.

At facilities providing these services the data must be presented to the user in a pre-sorted for and in a way, which allows easy presentation, for instance in the case of forced presentations of warning and emergency data. Since the selection of presented data to be relayed to airspace users is a time critical process, data must be presented in a way which fulfils the operators and the pilots data sorting requirements.


Now, why is there a lack of an efficient and effective information data retrieval and presentation system? Such a system is lacking, because there is no common source for all information data. Common data combination, checking, sorting and correlation therefore becomes impossible. What does it mean, if such a system is not available? It means either no data, void data, wrong data or not efficiently selectable data, resulting in mistakes, delays, infringed safety higher costs, detours, reduced traffic handling capability, more co-ordination, additional workload and reduced system capability.

To the user personnel the problem is the difficulty in selecting among unsorted, mostly un- checked, sometimes void and often not updated information, which therefore is not current, correct and conclusive. For the optimum presentation of aeronautical information data the operators require a colour, graphic retrieval system, base on pre-sorted data from a common source.

To conclude

It, therefore, is accepted that there is a requirement in the air navigation services system for implementation of such Aeronautical Information Data Handling system.

It is accepted that modern display and computer technology allows to fulfil these operational requirements of aeronautical information , flight information and air traffic control services personnel for information data handling and presentation.

It is accepted that much better use can be made of the Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunications Network (AFTN) as a future communication motor in the air navigation services system by upgrading its functional capabilities.

It is accepted that recent ICAO decisions on the Common ICAO Data Interchange Network (CIDIN) have paved the way for such applications.

It is accepted that presently available information and data can then be handled and used more efficiently and effectively by all air navigation system facilities and its users.
It is concluded that the implementation of Aeronautical Information Data Handling System will greatly facilitate the provision of operational flight information to airspace users fulfilling of its requirements and of aeronautical information data requirements to ATS and ATS Personnel in fulfilling operational tasks.

It is accepted that AIS, FIS and ATCS Personnel must be provided with information data handling retrieval and presentation system with colour/graphic presentation capability based on a common source.

It is accepted that such a common data source shall contain :

  • notices to airmen;
  • flight safety messages;
  • aeronautical information publication data;
  • air navigation services system internal information;
  • meteorological data;
  • operational and technical status data on system, facility and equipment status.

It is accepted that the implementation of an information data handling system, based on the use of a common data source, will also allow support of other navigation services subsystems and thereby increase total system effectiveness.

It is accepted that presentation of aeronautical information data at air traffic services working positions will improve air safety, economy and capacity by increased responsiveness of the air traffic services to pilots requests for operational flight information, by availability of important system data to air traffic services, to pilots requests for operational flight information, by availability of important system data to air traffic controllers and other navigation services operators, and would reduce overall operating costs of the system.

It is accepted that aeronautical information data handling systems can even be implemented with existing conventional air traffic services systems as independent self-contained parts, using static and/or semi-dynamic data only at the beginning.

It is accepted that advanced air traffic services systems, making extensive use of automated data processing machinery already can implement such data handling systems to allow combination and correlation of information data with flight plan and progress data as well as with aircraft positional information derived from radar sensors.

It is concluded that safety and economy of today’s flights is critically dependent on the timely distribution of information describing present and anticipated weather, traffic management, aeronautical equipment and navigational aid conditions, planned routes of flight and so on.

It is also concluded that potential users of such a system will include airline dispatchers, flow control facilities, general aviation operators, air traffic services units and other members of the aviation community, both domestic and foreign.

It is furthermore accepted that information data handled by a domestic information data handling system can be exchanged with those of neighbouring air navigation services systems and in adjacent countries by making better use of the AFTN as the data carrier.

It is concluded that AIS, FIS and Air Traffic Control service Personnel :

  • will then have quick access to all information data required;
  • will reduce its own workload;
  • will be able to work more efficient and correct;
  • will receive warning, urgency and emergency information without delay and effort at
  • working position directly;
  • will not have to remember so many data as before;
  • will have immediately available a lot of static data previously out of reach, when needed, and
  • will be presented with pre-sorted data for easier selection.

It is recommended that

The following be accepted as policy:

It is the IFATCA objective to encourage air navigation services system authorities to build common aeronautical information data bases containing:

  • notices to airmen;
  • flight safety massages;
  • aeronautical information publication data;
  • air navigation service system internal information;
  • meteorological data; and
  • operational and technical status data.

IFATCA proposed that aeronautical Information Data Handling subsystems be implemented in air navigation services systems for the efficient handling of aeronautical information data and operational flight information.

IFATCA is aware that the building of aeronautical data bases with current and conclusive information can only be effectively executed through the realisation of CIDIN. It is therefore the objective of IFATCA to encourage ICAO to accelerate the upgrading of the AFTN to CIDIN capability.

IFATCA proposes to extend the AFTN also to those areas of air navigation services systems, where at present no connections exist.

IFATCA proposes that colour/graphic display equipment be used for presentation of aeronautical information data at ATS and ATC Unit working positions, fulfilling at least ICAO AFTN data format requirements.

That Annex A to WP 16/82 be accepted as guidance material on the subject “Provision of Operational Aeronautical Information”.

That the statements in paragraph 4 of the Annex, as amended by Conference, be adopted as IFATCA policy on Aeronautical Information Data Handling.

That ICAO be appraised of this policy.

Last Update: September 20, 2020  

November 26, 2019   153   Jean-Francois Lepage    1982    

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