NOTAM is critical safety communication from FAA to pilots
So much information is in this Notice that its value is diminished
ATO COO Teri Bristol announces new format
A NOTICE TO AIRMAN has been an essential, yet antiquated means of communicating critical safety information to pilots. It has, however, accreted to be so dense with information as to be difficult to use. Its obtuseness is well known to the flying community and even the aviators in Congress:
The CEO of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization announced how she plans to update this vital safety tool.
“FAA is on target to transition to an international format and a more streamlined system for distributing notices to airmen (NOTAMs) by summer 2020, according to a senior agency official.
NOTAMs are issued to notify pilots in advance of flights of changes in aeronautical facilities, services, procedures or hazards. FAA’s push to modernize its decades-old NOTAM system follows a similar move by Nav Canada, which aligned its NOTAMs with ICAO standards beginning Oct. 10.
The effort comes after FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) COO Teri Bristol organized a meeting over the summer with representatives from Airlines for America (A4A), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association and several US airlines to discuss potential improvements to the NOTAM system.
“If you’re a pilot, you know when you file a flight plan and you’re retrieving your NOTAMs that it can be a very long process,” Bristol said during the Air Traffic Control Association’s annual conference Oct. 22 in Washington DC.
“We had a great stakeholder meeting over the summer, and I committed to take a deeper look into possible changes to the system,” Bristol added. “I asked our safety organization to do a deep, top-to-bottom review of the whole NOTAM system, and I didn’t like what I found. I thought we could do so much better. But it’s a system of processes created over decades. It didn’t happen overnight.”
Bristol’s first move was to appoint ATO director of technical training Abigail Smith to spearhead the effort, leading a cross-functional team that collaborates with industry to identify best practices to modernize the NOTAM system.
“Our review found that we have process issues, technical issues and governance issues. … After putting together a plan with stakeholders, we agreed to align all of the governance for the NOTAMs and Aeronautical Information into one office, which will serve as a one-stop-shop and NOTAM clearinghouse,” Bristol said, adding that the new system’s standardized ICAO format will be filterable and allow third-party app developers to use the information and customize it for different flying communities.
“It’s going to be plain language. NOTAMs can be pretty overwhelming, and if you have to search 15 to 20 pages deep into the NOTAM to find the runway closure, that’s a problem,” Bristol SAID. “We know we can do this … There’s nothing easy about it, but we’re going to get it done, and I think this will have a great impact on safety, especially for pilots flying through the system.”
H.R. 1775, Notice to Airmen Improvement Act of 2019
H.R. 1775 improves aviation safety by requiring the FAA to establish a task force―composed of representatives from airlines, labor, and general and business aviation, as well as aviation safety and human factors experts―to review existing methods for presenting Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) to pilots and NOTAM policies and regulations, and determine best practices for organizing and presenting flight operations information to pilots in an optimal manner. The bill is in response to NTSB recommendations following a July 2017 near miss in which an Air Canada plane almost landed on a taxiway occupied by four fully-loaded passenger aircraft at San Francisco International Airport. H.R. 1775 was introduced on March 14, 2019, by Congressman Pete Stauber (R-MN) and Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA). The bill passed favorably out of Committee on March 27, 2019.
“The current NOTAM system is in need of updates. Our bill would help find ways to streamline the safety information pilots receive in a clear and concise format to help them better identify critical alerts and avoid incidents and accidents. I thank Representative Stauber for his leadership on this effort and am pleased that our effort to better protect flight crews and the flying public is one step closer to becoming law,” said Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA).
“Although NOTAMs contain critical safety information, they are often lengthy and difficult to understand,” said Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN). “These inefficiencies have the potential to create life threatening situations so I am happy to see the House pass my legislation which will ensure the continued safety of air travel by requiring that safety protocols are consistently maintained and improved upon.”
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