In the past, the state of the art for connecting two systems required a fixed network connection and custom, point-to-point, application-level data interfaces. Current National Airspace System (NAS) operations depend upon these legacy information systems with some systems entirely unconnected. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) identified a need to reduce the high degree of interdependence among systems and move away from the proliferation of unique, point-to-point application interfaces.

In 2007, the FAA established the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) Program to implement a set of Information Technology (IT) principles in the NAS and provide users with relevant and commonly understandable information. The principles behind the SWIM concept include the following:

The following five shortfalls capture the key deficiencies in the FAA's current approach to sharing and managing information. They were derived from several FAA reports and official testimony.

  • Separation of information provision and consumption in such a way that the number and nature of the consumers can evolve through time;
  • Loose system coupling, in which each component has, or makes use of, little or no knowledge of the definitions of other separate components, allowing for flexibility in software design;
  • Using publicly available open standards; and
  • The use of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) concepts within the design of a suite of interoperable web-services.

SWIM enables the sharing of information between diverse systems enabling the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) to deliver the right information to the right place at the right time. The program achieves this by providing the IT enterprise infrastructure necessary for NAS systems to share and reuse information and increase interoperability. This infrastructure enables systems to publish information of interest to NAS users, request and receive information from other NAS services, and support NAS security requirements. Further, SWIM provides governance to NAS programs to ensure services are SWIM compliant and meet all FAA SOA standards. By providing this governance and a supporting common enterprise infrastructure, SWIM will reduce the cost and risk of rework for NextGen programs that develop and deploy services within the NAS.

SWIM's approach allows software applications in the NAS to interact with one another through information services that can be accessed without knowledge of an application's underlying platform implementation. This simplifies interface requirements to existing NAS systems and ensures new systems can be built with minimum technology (hardware, software, and data definition) constraints. SWIM also enables the transition to net-centric NAS operations, and from tactical conflict management to strategic, trajectory-based operations. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the exchange of information in the NAS with and without SWIM.

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Figure 1: The NAS - Business-As-Usual

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Figure 2: The NAS - With SWIM