NOTAMs are a mess, ICAO’s remedy should include FAA’s work

NOTAM a mess
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NOTAMs include incredibly important safety information

ICAO’s initiative is justified

There has been some work done and some outside the box to be included

ICAO, see below, is initiating a  Global Campaign on NOTAM Improvement (NOTAM2021), a process designed to capture the opinions of all of its Members and then the Montreal staff will review the input and develop a proposed solution. Then all of the organizations that use or rely on NOTAMs will spend time to come to a consensus. It is a method to establish a global standard, but the opening announcement seems to ignore what has already been done.

Globally there is dissatisfaction with an important information safety resource—a Notice to All Airman (NOTAM). Its value is all of the references to hazard or difficult conditions which the flight crew requires for flight.

A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means. It states the abnormal status of a component of the National Airspace System (NAS) – not the normal status.

  • NOTAMs indicate the real-time and abnormal status of the NAS impacting every user.
  • NOTAMs concern the establishment, condition, or change of any facility, service, procedure or hazard in the NAS.
  • NOTAMs have a unique language using special contractions to make communication more efficient.

NOTAM vetted


The jargon is not that difficult for an experienced pilot to understand. What is the problem is the number of conditions highlighted in these messages which can run as long as 100 pages.

The value of the NOTAMs warnings is further diminished by the typical gap between reading it and the time its message is needed. The message calls out some point into the flight where the cockpit needs to be aware of some potential risk. Recalling one of a large number of important points at the momentNOTAM modernization chart of relevance is not supported by NOTAMs.

The FAA, at the behest of Congress (Section 512 of 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act) began, in 2019, a project with the following goals:

  • Decrease volume of NOTAMs when retrieving airman information prior to a flight in the NAS
  • Make NOTAMs more specific and relevant to airman’s route and in a format more useable to the airman
  • Provide a full set of NOTAM results in addition to specific information requested by airmen
  • Provide an easily searchable document
  • Provide filtering mechanism similar to DoD NOTAMs

FAA NOTAM results


February 2020, the FAA sunsetted Pilot Web because it was not  in compliance with ICAO standards. Aeronautical Integrated Data Access Portal (AIDAP), which allows users to retrieve textual (non-digital) NOTAM and weather data. The FAA began a transition to the System Wide Information Management (SWIM) program.swim data

This thorough assessment of NOTAMs must have produced much useful input into improving this valuable aid to navigation. Why no mention by ICAO of the FAA’s lessons?




Perhaps technology can provide an application to deliver the relevant warnings at the time that it may impact the flight? Maybe a technology like WAZE, that makes car drivers aware of specific warnings as the vehicles approach the relevant point, could load the NOTAM information to display it in advance of the interaction?



Global campaign on NOTAM improvement (NOTAM2021)




On any given day, there are some 35,000 active NOTAM circulating in the global air transport system. In 2020, the total number of NOTAM issued exceeded 1.7 million. 

Yearly totals such as this have increased steadily over the years, on average by more than 100,000 annually. Due to the COVID pandemic, however, the total number of NOTAM decreased by five percent in 2020, the first decrease in over 10 years (Source: Eurocontrol, International NOTAM statistics 2000-2020).

notam illustrated

It is not uncommon for a pre-flight briefing package supporting a long-haul international flight to contain more than 100 pages of NOTAM informationFindings have shown that twenty percent of these will be old NOTAM, exceeding their three-month applicability period.

On 8 April 2021 at 12:00 UTC, ICAO will launch a new Global Campaign on NOTAM Improvement (NOTAM2021) by kicking off Phase 1 on old NOTAM with a webinar in collaboration with its seven regional offices. Its objective will be the significant reduction in the number of old NOTAM still in circulation.


Additional webinars will be conducted on a bi-monthly basis to monitor progress and share experiences and lessons learned. The overall schedule for all of these sessions will be as follows:


Kick-off webinar:      08 April 2021

Progress webinars: 16 June 2021

      31 Aug 2021

      28 Oct 2021

      15 Dec 2021

All webinars will be conducted at 12:00 UTC to optimize global participation.


[(from AINonline ): Phase 1 of ICAO’s new Notam 2021 campaign seeks to improve Notam quality by pushing nations to purge older ones from the system. ICAO defines Notams as being “old” if they exceed three months but are less than one year, and “very old” if they exceed the one-year duration.

To keep track of the campaign’s progress, ICAO is rolling out a NotaMeter, a web-based tool that will provide an estimate of the absolute and relative numbers of current, old, and very old Notams. The tool will allow users to explore the Notam statistics in their country and compare it to ICAO regions or worldwide.]




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