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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

World Aeronautical Information Service Day: The Unsung Heroes of Aviation Safety

By Samuel Makalla Aeronautical Information Officer at TCAA Dodoma

As I recall it was an early morning in February 2016, and my father came rushing through my door in his hand with Mwananchi newspaper. He had just seen a job advert for Aeronautical Information Officers, seeing that I had finished university and not yet employed, he knew this was the right position for me.

With any job application, you have to research what the job is and get a better understanding of what it is you're about to apply for. This proved to be a daunting task as it was the first time I had heard of such a profession. With a little Google search, I came to realize that it had a lot to do with aviation. At the time the only aviation professions I knew about were pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft engineers and air hostesses. Having never heard of the aeronautical information profession, I thought perhaps it was a newly established profession, but I came to understand how incorrect I was.

Samuel Makalla Aeronautical Information Officer at TCAA Dodoma

Who we are?

In a nutshell, the sole function of the Aeronautical Information profession is the gathering, processing and subsequent dissemination of aeronautical information/data while ensuring uniformity and consistency to satisfy the need for safety, regularity and efficiency for the operational use of international air navigation.

On 15 May 1953, the International Civil Aviation Organization published Annex 15 - Aeronautical Information Service which governs how aeronautical information will be gathered and managed.

Where we’re coming from?

From the establishment of Annex 15, is specified that each contracting state must provide an aeronautical information service (AIS) or delegate to an appropriate non-governmental agency. It also specifies how this information is to be published, that is an Integrated Aeronautical Information Package which is composed of the following elements;

Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP)

NOTICE to AIRMEN (NOTAM) which is a notice distributed using telecommunication containing critical information and time-sensitive for the operations of an aircraft.

Pre-flight information bulletins

Aeronautical Information Circulars

It is important to understand that these publications were paper-based and had to be posted to their recipients.

Principles concerning the establishment of a worldwide aeronautical fixed telecommunications network were developed by ICAO for the exchange of messages between aeronautical stations, this network came to be known as AFTN.

Where we’re at?

With the rise of the Internet, satellite navigation and computer networks, Annex 15 has undergone many amendments to meet the rapid changes brought about by air travel and the associated information technology.  It has catered to reflect the increased need for the timely provision of quality aeronautical information/data and terrain data as they have become critical components of data-dependent onboard navigation systems.

In 2009 ICAO published the Roadmap for Transition from AIS to AIM which is a high-level document guiding member states on AIS digitalisation.

This enlarged the AIS scope from traditional product-centric AIS to data-centric Aeronautical Information Management. With this transformation, traditional aeronautical information products like AIP, are being replaced by digital data sets which include

AIP data set

Terrain and obstacle data sets

Aerodrome mapping data sets and

Instrument flight procedure data

It is viewed that not in the so-distant future these data sets will be crucial in the exchange across an entire Air Traffic Management system via a System-Wide Information Management (SWIM), a network-centric approach to information exchange.

Where we’re going?

With the great advancement of big data and quantum computing, artificial intelligence has risen significantly over the last few years. Its applications relate to the development of deep learning models for the detection and classification of images, text and voice.

Artificial Intelligence has great potential to transform how data is processed and used in the ATM system.

These AI models will greatly depend on quality data provided by AIM. In Air traffic management, for example, AI can optimize flight routes for fuel efficiency, time-saving and cost reduction by analyzing data provided by AIM. Also in response to unforeseen events such as airspace restrictions, AI can suggest alternative routes in real-time, minimizing delays and disruptions.

There is still a long way to go within the AI domain as the technology is still in its infancy but when it gets to its advanced stages it will truly impact aviation for the better.

Information is essentially invisible, much like air. Without air, one cannot live or, as in the case of information, one cannot make correct judgments. Making correct decisions is essential for safe flight operations. These choices and the actions that follow are frequently crucial for everyone's safety. Bad information can lead to bad decisions, and bad decisions always compromise aviation safety. It's important to appreciate and honour the dedication and hard work of the men and women in the Aeronautical Information Services around the world.

✈️Aeronautical Infomation Service for Safer Skies!✈️

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