February 2013 Issue

Fixing The Notam Mess

Recent legislation requires the FAA to improve the Notam process, but changes are coming slowly. Meanwhile, new tools are available to make Notams less painful.

As more and more technology is welcomed into our formerly round-dial cockpits, many pilots have expressed growing frustration over the lingering need to do some things the old-fashioned way. In the new, high-tech cockpit, flat-panel screens, all-electronic flight instruments and portable, tablet-size computers with built-in GPS dominate our must-have lists. Along the way, these much-welcomed advances have helped simplify the pre-flight planning task. But much of the information we need for every flight remains stuck in the abbreviated, ALL CAPS format used when DC-3s and J3 Cubs were the cat’s meow. The notice to airmen (Notam) function is perhaps the best/worst example of how international regulatory agencies have failed leveraging new technologies to improve dissemination of flight-critical information. But now, thanks to an unlikely set of circumstances, an overhaul of the Notam system is underway. Here’s what’s going on, why and what you can expect.

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