Profinit and the Airport

Have you flown anywhere in the last 15 years? If so, did you use the services of Prague’s largest airport? If you answered yes to both questions, that means you:

  1. Survived the flight
  2. Most probably used data from systems supplied and operated by Profinit

Profinit has been supplying Prague Airport with solutions for the integration of key operational data for more than 15 years. Whenever a passenger looks at a screen listing arrivals or departures, he is looking at data from the CAODB system. The equivalent of CAODB, just without the C, (i.e., AODB—Airport Operation Database) is used by virtually every airport because every large airport has the same problem: it has many sources of operational data that it needs to compile into a comprehensive picture. You may be wondering, what is so complicated about that? Data integration is an established discipline, not a major technological challenge. This is absolutely true, and at Profinit, we are definitely not in favor of reinventing the wheel, but even so, many interesting things that it makes sense to talk about can be found throughout the entire solution. And after all, CAODB is one of the key systems that supports CDM, whose implementation at Prague Airport was named the IT Project of the Year seven years ago.

One of the most interesting features is that CAODB supports not only data integration but also the opposite process. Any input system can declare “my change is not valid” and CAODB will enter a state as if the specified change had never come from that system.

CAODB is also the only system to manage operational code lists, all other systems just accept them. If it occurred to you that this is called MDM, then I have nothing but respect for your knowledge of IT terminology. The Czech Airport Administration (the predecessor of Prague Airport) began implementing MDM with Profinit at the beginning of the millennium, and the MDM module of CAODB has been operating successfully for more than 13 years.

Since MDM rhymes with CDM (I admit, it’s a rather childish rhyme), let’s go back to collaborative decision making for a bit. This is excellent proof that more efficient use of existing data can unveil significant financial potential. A-CDM methodology, among other things, describes the intensive data exchange between individual companies operating at the airport as well as between individual operating units of the airport itself. For example, imagine that during the dispatch procedure a complication arises that delays the whole process. Because CDM shares ground handling company data from the dispatch procedure with the airport and air traffic control, it is possible to identify that a particular flight won’t take off on time and rearrange the order of aircraft departure so the allocated time slot (take-off/landing runway reservation for the given departure) is not wasted. As a result of the intensive data exchange, Eurocontrol also has a better overview of the current situation and thus can ground flights if it is clear that they won’t be able to land at their planned destination (and surely you agree that if there is a delay, it is more pleasant to spend the extra time on the ground at the terminal than circling in the air). Thanks to better planning, departure time has been reduced by an average of 30 seconds, which passengers probably don’t notice, but in a week, it saves the amount of fuel needed to fly an Airbus A330 to Paris and back.

But Profinit develops more than just CAODB for Prague Airport, it also supplies a system for parsing IATA Type-B messages. What makes this system interesting is the fact that the message format originated in the 1920s, so it was not optimized for machine processing (that is, unless you are thinking of a telex). And even today, some (smaller) airports don’t generate these messages using machines, they are written by people. So, our system is based on grammar (using the ANTLR library), not on regular phrases. To illustrate, an IATA Type-B message might look like this.



AD1245/1253 EA 1559DUS


This message says that flight RAT0123 is being operated by an aircraft with registration EC-ENZ and is headed from Istanbul to Düsseldorf, where it will arrive at 15:59. It departed at 12:53 UTC (pushback commenced at 12:45) on the ninth day of the current month and there are 323 people on board.

The above lines may give some readers the impression that I am boasting. And they are right, because we have something to be proud of. I can easily prove the legitimacy of this assertion with the following two points.

  • CAODB is a key airport system. If a lengthy outage and the associated operational complications occurred, it certainly wouldn’t escape media attention (like the news about the departure board blackout at Gatwick Airport). Have you noticed any such news?
  • No one who works on Profinit’s project for Prague Airport is afraid to fly out of Prague. And that includes flying to important business meetings the day after deploying a big CAODB upgrade.