I am looking for information about airspace definitions.

On maps they look great and a pilot has no problem reading maps and NOTAMs, but what about autopilots? Do they use some kind of standardized interface/database? If it exists, where is it defined?

I am not specifying a country because hopefully there only one standard (or an extremely limited set). Should this not be true, I would like to focus on Europe and North America.

  • $\begingroup$ Why would the autopilot need to know about airspace definitions? Route definitions should be enough or am I missing something? Even without route definitions, an autopilot could work just with the data entered through the mode control panel. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Mar 14 '17 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima I was thinking about something along the lines of Garmin, that has an "autopilot" but also displays the airspaces around for when the pilot is in charge $\endgroup$ – Federico Mar 14 '17 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ Aeronautical Information Exchange Model $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Mar 14 '17 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer if you convert that to an answer, I'll accept it, it is what I was looking for! $\endgroup$ – Federico Mar 15 '17 at 9:21

The Aeronautical Information eXchange Model (AIXM) was designed to provide a standard model of data exchange for things like:

  • Aerodrome/Heliport including movement areas, services, facilities, etc.
  • Airspace structures
  • Organisations and units, including services
  • Points and Navaids
  • Procedures
  • Routes
  • Flying restrictions

The Forum on the AIXM site is pretty responsive but relatively quiet. The data available through AIXM seems to be mostly European based but the system was not designed to be restricted to EU.


The majority of GPS navigators and FMS have a dataloadable navigation database. The actual database each uses is typically encrypted and compressed using proprietary algorithms. The source data for all of these databases normally start out in ARINC 424 format. Unfortunately, A424 is not available free of charge.

ARINC 424 is an international standard file format for aircraft navigation data maintained by Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee and published by Aeronautical Radio, Inc.. The ARINC 424 specifications are not a database, but a "standard for the preparation and transmission of data for assembly of airborne navigation system data bases".

The databases are compiled by companies such as Jeppesen. Jeppesen collects the data from the controlling agencies around the world, checks it, and merges it into a world-wide database that they then sell (typically via subscription).

Some information for US airspace is available directly from the FAA. It is not in a format that can be directly loaded onto aircraft, but may be of use offline.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 Thanks for the supplemental information. To avoid any name confusion, it should be noted that Aeronautical Radio, Inc. changed its name to ARINC some time back. To further muddy the waters, Rockwell Collins bought ARINC a few years back to gain access to their data link services business (the money making side). To avoid a conflict of interest, RC sold the industry standards portion of ARINC to SAE-ITC where they now operate as ARINC Industry Activities. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Mar 15 '17 at 11:44

There's also a "new" kid on the block: The open source initiative Open Flightmaps offers curated eAIP for many countries free of charge. The custom format OFMX is a fork of AIXM 4.5 which adds and will add new features and modify very few existing features in order to accommodate things like proper obstacle groups, plate packages etc. It should be fairly easy to adapt an existing AIXM 4.5 parser to consume OFMX by following the migration guide.


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