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The Indispensable Role Of An AMHS System In Airport ATC Operations

by | Mar 6, 2024 | ATC Services

Modern Aeronautical Message Handling Systems (AMHS) provide ATC managers with accurate, real-time messages between various stakeholders, including aircraft, airline operators, and air traffic control systems, to provide efficient and safe ATC operations. An AMHS system is, put simply, indispensable for facilitating aeronautical messages related to airspace management, weather updates, flight paths, Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) and other essential communications.

How Does An AMHS System Work?

AMHS systems are digital platforms designed to maintain unobstructed communication channels between Air Navigation Service Providers, with defined test cases to be performed prior to the establishment of bilateral links. An AMHS system will, for instance, prioritise and route messages based on urgency, using predefined automated workflows. It also usually incorporates data security measures to protect the integrity and confidentiality of data, and includes tracking and monitoring capabilities to improve collaboration and accountability.

AMHS systems were developed in the late 90’s and started to roll out across the world from the early 2000’s as part of a global effort by the ICAO to improve aviation communication systems. However, in many parts of the world, older Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) systems are still used – the backbone of civil aviation since the 1950s, which limits message capacity, security, and scalability, as well as interoperability with more modern infrastructure and software.

Automation And Digitisation In AMHS Aviation

The transition from analogue AFTN aviation systems to digitised AMHS systems is ongoing, with some regions operating both systems side-by-side during the migration. At the same time, the increased adoption of AMHS message handling systems has increased the prominence of cyber security in ATC, making this a fundamental challenge to airports worldwide. Modern messaging systems handle an astronomical volume of data, which is highly vulnerable to loss, theft, corruption, and unauthorised access, placing the issue of data security front and centre stage.

Improvements In Data Security

The latest generation of AMHS systems are improving the security of ATC automation and digitisation, providing automated message handling based on X.400 profiles. X.400 is a set of standards developed by the International Telecommunication Union to handle a wide range of electronic messaging platforms and networks.

For AMHS systems, X.400 profiles provide secure standards for data security, including integrity checks, and authentication. They also facilitate interoperability between diverse messaging systems and standards, including text, binary data, and multimedia messages. X.400 profiles also enjoy multinational support, making them crucial tools in an international airspace management context in which different languages and character sets are used, and in which regional airports may use a mix of AMHS and older AFTN and telex systems.

New XML Message Formats

AMHS systems are capable of carrying binary date in File Transfer Bodyparts (FTBP) and this feature has been recommended by ICAO to carry, for example, the meteorological messages in the IWXXM format now required by the WMO.

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