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Think SWIM!


SWIM (System Wide Information Management) is strategic to access the benefits that the trajectory, collaboration-based ATM paradigm envisioned by ICAO and defined by SESAR and NextGen – among others – will disclose.

Communication between Air Traffic Management stakeholders is changing. Current ways of accessing and exchanging information are gradually transitioning to SWIM. Airlines ought to embrace SWIM to make a decisive move towards the performance benefits that the approaching trajectory- and collaboration-based ATM is disclosing. Developing a strategy to deploy a SWIM-compliant organization is crucial to every airline.   


Our last post (“SESAR, the road to readiness”) raised expectations on knowing more about SWIM, the System Wide Information Management. Actually, the interest tends to focus on a concern that comes to surface the minute airline decision-makers are engaged in SWIM discussions: “Show me the business case!”.

Thus, we have decided to share some considerations.

Do you recall? “Think SWIM” – we wrote – since the trajectory- and collaboration-based ATM under deployment relies on SWIM as information exchange paradigm. “Think SWIM” – therefore – because all crucial operational information (which is increasingly real-time) will be made available through SWIM services in the near future. And watch out! It also concerns the information we are used to access today!

As our colleague Thomas Eschenhagen repeats tirelessly (to whom most of the credit goes for this article), SWIM is an enabler, NOT the whole solution! Therefore, the question on the business case is: “What  can I expect from the upcoming trajectory- and collaboration-based ATM in the particular case of my own airline?”. In other words, which use cases – out of the ones made available by the new ATM solutions currently being implemented – will bring my airline significant performance benefits (do you remember? We touched this point several times in our last posts). Then – of course – make assumptions that include the investment needed for transitioning to SWIM.

Good enough! Here are our considerations... We hope they can help in “thinking SWIM” and prepare for the approaching developments.


What does SWIM mean to an airline?

Let’s start by saying that SWIM will simply transform the way airlines access and exchange information within the ATM community. Actually, in less time than expected. “Even the most lenient estimates – says Capt. Michael Bryan (Closed Loop) while wrapping up the 13th Flight Operations Conference held in London last week – for full implementation are running at about one-third of the time it took the industry to come to grips with Electronic Flight Bag and about a quarter of the time it took for it to get digital data as messed up as it is”. “Compared to what will be required for trajectory-based operations, – he continues – Electronic Flight Bag and digital data was a walk in the park”. Thanks Michael for setting things straight!

We wrote it already last time: current ground-ground communication will just be a memory...

SWIM will concern the applications used for information gathering, operational decision-making and for the dissemination of the decision outcomes. In many cases it will require a re-design of involved applications. Temporary workarounds will not be enough to take advantage of the upcoming trajectory- and collaboration-based ATM that SWIM is making visible. Rather, a long-term strategy is required to govern the deployment of advanced SWIM-compliant applications.

At the same time, the strategy must also address all requirements for change in terms of operational control processes, workflows and structures, skill sets and training to leverage the opportunities disclosed by SWIM-compliant interactions. Those who will not be capable of SWIM-compliant exchanges with the other ATM stakeholders (i.e. incapable to collaborate) will undergo, sooner or later, an inefficient access to ATM resources and will raise the cost of production.

As well, the internal operational decision-making processes (not limited to Ops Control Centers) need to be re-designed. Enhanced ties between the operational departments and tighter interoperability between the systems (generally from different vendors) will be of essence. SWIM will allow tighter integration within the airlines’ production chain. This will probably raise the demand for integrated suite of products, whose development – on the other hand – can be made easier by the standardization and interoperability that come along with SWIM.


What are the benefits?

This is not the place for a full-scale review of the benefits expected once trajectory- and collaboration based ATM will be in place. Instead, just a few words – some obvious, some hopefully not –  with specific regards to an airline adopting SWIM.

Let’s start from here: airlines will benefit on several crucial performance indicators, cost effectiveness, environmental sustainability and safety among others. In fact, enhanced trajectories and effective 4D trajectory negotiations enabled by “collaborating by SWIM” will reduce the direct operating costs and will result in a reduced environmental impact, increased capacity of the airspace and reduced delays.

As well, it can be expected that the cost of the services provided by the other ATM stakeholders (e.g. air navigation service providers, weather services, airport operators) decrease in the long run. For reasons similar – among others – to those shown here below.

Over the same period, the implementation of SWIM could reduce the cost for the applications used by the airlines to support their operational processes. Not to be underrated, costs might also decrease by merit of increased competition between vendors, given that standardized interfaces will allow easier adoption of different vendor applications. Standardization of interfaces will disclose opportunities to new entrants and will increase the competition level, posing threats and opportunities to the incumbents.


Think SWIM!

So, take these considerations into account and start thinking SWIM! Start working on your individual airline’s strategy! And start looking for the right partners… We wrote it already: transitioning to a SWIM-compliant organization (we were referring to the Ops Control case) is a long journey. But an endeavor that will pay off. As announced, our next post will discuss how Lufthansa Systems Airline Consulting can support in creating a change roadmap towards readiness for the Pilot Common Project, which encompasses readiness for SWIM.

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Davide BardelliDirector Consultant

About the author

Davide Bardelli is Director Consultant at Lufthansa Systems Airline Consulting. Aeronautical engineer and MBA, his focus is on flight planning processes, airline operations control, ATM and management of change. Former Head of Dispatch in a few European airlines, he is experienced in developing operational organizations and in SESAR R&D and SESAR deployment.
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