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In the Operation

In the past, aeronautical, traffic, and weather information was shared by the FAA using several technologies, including radio, telephone, internet, and dedicated computer connections. The agency now leverages the technology of System Wide Information Management (SWIM).

SWIM is the digital data delivery platform that turns raw National Airspace System (NAS) data into meaningful information for aviation stakeholders. It replaces the antiquated system of multiple dedicated computer interfaces with a single connection through a secure FAA telecommunications system where consumers can retrieve data flowing in from producers. Users gain access to data products with improved bandwidth and security. Data is easily digested because it's in a modern, universally recognized data-exchange format and is ready for software developers to use in making new products. This standard format also supports collaboration among domestic and international aviation communities.

SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System Locations

Map of the United States showing STDDS locations.

Current as of February 2018

Segment 2A finished in 2017, which completed the transition to the NAS data-sharing infrastructure. This brought a NEMS connection point to all 20 en route traffic control centers in the contiguous United States, and software to provide various capabilities, such as data translation. Each center receives data from FAA NAS programs, such as the Traffic Flow Management System (TFMS) and Time Based Flow Management. That data is shared among the centers, and consumers access it from the closest location.

SWIM operates through a publish-subscribe model known as a service-oriented architecture (SOA), which is composed of producers and consumers that interact through a registry. Producers, most commonly from the FAA, publish data into the NAS Enterprise Messaging Service (NEMS). Registered consumers can search for or subscribe to services based on specific criteria and have access to more than 100 information products.

Buildup of the infrastructure started with Segment 1, which was completed in 2015. It established the service registry and security gateway, brought in seven NAS programs that produce data, and ensured the use of common protocols, interfaces, and SOA software.

Because of more users and a higher amount of data being transferred, NEMS connection points received upgraded technology at four locations to handle growth and higher demand from external consumers through the gateway:

  • Atlanta
  • Atlantic City
  • Oklahoma City
  • Salt Lake

Atlantic City and Oklahoma City gained further capacity to handle internal data from the computer system used by terminal controllers, SWIM Flight Data Publication Service and, when it's available, Common Support Services-Weather (CSS-Wx).

More data sets became available in Segment 2A with Aeronautical Information Management Modernization (AIM) Notices to Airmen, AIM Aeronautical Common Services, and the latest update of TFMS to maintain a common situational awareness of the NAS. The SWIM program assisted 58 consumers in modifying their software to continue to receive the TFMS data stream, as the previous version was shut down in 2017.

Other changes in the past year were to the SWIM Terminal Data Distribution System (STDDS) and the Runway Visual Range (RVR) digital feed. STDDS is a technology that converts raw surface data collected from airport towers and terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facilities into easily accessible information, which is published via the NEMS. Spurred by consumer demand, the latest upgrade added non-movement-area data and safety alert messages. The non-movement area covers the gate area to and from the taxiway that is controlled by an airline's flight dispatch. More updates are planned in the next several years.

RVR is one of six sources from which STDDS publishes data. It is the distance over which a pilot of an aircraft on the centerline of the runway can see the runway surface markings delineating the runway or identifying its centerline. RVR is one of many legacy feeds that have switched to SWIM, and this data under SWIM has grown from 60 to more than 130 airports. It is expected to eventually reach 200 airports. Those interested in RVR can subscribe to receive the data or visit the web page.

Photo Collage

SWIM replaces multiple dedicated computer interfaces with a single connection where consumers can retrieve more than 100 aeronautical, traffic, and weather information products.

Eleven FAA NAS programs and six external organizations produce data sent via the SWIM network. As of October 2017, 170 consumers were registered to access the data, with another 230 in the process of becoming SWIM consumers. SWIM serves a wide range of consumers in these six categories:

  • Airlines that depend on SWIM for daily operations
  • Large companies turning data into services for airlines
  • Entrepreneurs seeking to develop innovative applications
  • Foreign air navigation service providers
  • Department of Defense
  • Organizations or universities researching and developing future FAA programs

One well-known consumer is FlightAware, which uses FAA NAS flight data from TFMS for its website. Those data, in turn, are used by aircraft operators, service companies, and the flying public. Sometimes a consumer can also be a producer, which is the case for airlines providing data for TFMS.

Modern data sharing of SWIM eliminates redundancy and the cost of building and maintaining numerous telecommunications lines and services. It opens the opportunity to create new services for the aviation community and contributes toward the FAA goal of Trajectory Based Operations that depends on air traffic controllers and managers, and airline employees, getting the right information at the right time. SWIM enhances safety through a common situational awareness and increases efficiency for better workplace productivity as well as reduced delays, cancellations, fuel consumption, and aircraft exhaust emissions.

Segment 2B is scheduled to be finished by 2021. It builds upon the accomplishments of Segment 2A with several enhancements to the existing system. Segment 2C is scheduled to start in 2019 and is handling new requirements as SWIM continues to grow.

Segment 2B is focused on enhancing the infrastructure through four areas:

  • NAS Common Reference tool became available in June 2017 and will be fully implemented by 2020. In a single request, it gives consumers the ability to learn about any aeronautical, traffic, or weather information that might affect their flight plan.
  • STDDS Phase 2 improves the infrastructure and data services of the first phase from Segment 1. It will provide new services to the list of STDDS-published information, including Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System track and flight plan data, and real-time status/alerts from tower and airport systems.
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM), introduced with a prototype in Segment 2A, reduces the chance of unauthorized access to NAS assets and other intrusions while increasing the ability to detect cyber incidents. IAM expands authentication and introduces authorization by providing digital certificates for all users. SWIM security capabilities also eliminate individual FAA program costs for separate security assets and infrastructure.
  • Enterprise Service Monitoring (ESM), also introduced with a prototype in Segment 2A, keeps watch of the enterprise infrastructure. Changes will bring operational and maintenance status of the NAS infrastructure and SOA services to assist the enterprise services desk staff who support SWIM users.

Segment 2C, the newest part of the SWIM program, is scheduled for completion in 2023. This segment will provide a technical refresh of existing infrastructure and capacity expansion to accommodate new programs such as Aeronautical Information Management Modernization Segment 3, CSS-Wx, and the NextGen Weather Processor. The other objective is to implement a cloud solution to meet the demand of an increasing number of users and amount of data flowing through the system.

Flight schedule board

One of the benefits of improved data sharing through SWIM is better efficiency that reduces flight delays and cancellations.

CSS-Wx, which is expected in the next year, is data dense with many graphics, and Terminal Flight Data Manager is going to be another large data provider. The plan is to boost capacity for higher demand NEMS locations and to use a cloud provider to take non-aviation users off the gateway, to ensure that airlines and other NAS consumers can access data.

Part of the capacity challenge can be alleviated through an effort called "smart services". This would enable consumers to select specific data available now only from pre-packaged streams and receive them in one tailored SWIM data feed.

The SWIM Program Office will continue to reach out to assist consumers who are still adapting to changes through quarterly forums and software developers, conferences, and work with future NAS programs to evaluate how they might benefit from SWIM.

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