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Notam - a.k.a New Opportunities To Avoid Mistakes' on the Runway

By Inez Kennedy
Reprinted with permission from the FAA Aviation News

Demand for aviation to perform at unprecedented levels of safety has never been higher. The NOTAM (Notices to Airmen) system is used to disseminate information on unanticipated or temporary changes to components of or hazards in the National Airspace System (NAS). Looking through the lens of runway safety, NOTAMs truly are new opportunities to avoid mistakes on the runway. The constantly changing information they provide on such things as runway closures, construction projects, runway lights out of service, and maintenance crews and equipment helps reduce the potential for human error. In particular, two types of NOTAMs, Distant NOTAMs (D NOTAMs) or Local NOTAMs (L NOTAMs), can help pilots lower their risk of being involved in a runway incursion.

D NOTAMs contain information on en route navigational aids, facilities, services, procedures, and civil public- use airports listed in the Airport/Facility Directory, and are widely disseminated through telecommunication. Conversely, L NOTAM information, such as taxiway closures and runway lighting, is required only to be distributed locally. At first glance, this distinction may seem inconsequential. But the risk is significant.

For example, if you were flying from Maryland to Wisconsin, and did not request L NOTAM information from the Automated Flight Service Station or Flight Service Station (AFSS/FSS) that has responsibility for the airport concerned, you would not find out about construction personnel or equipment on a runway in Wisconsin from your pre-flight briefing in Maryland. L NOTAMs are not entered into a central database. As a result, if you do not check for updated information en route, you increase your risk and the risk of others on the surface of being involved in a runway incursion.

FIVE RUNWAY SAFETY GUIDELINES TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE USING NOTAMS:

  • Obtain a complete pre-flight briefing, including all NOTAMs.
  • The pilot-in-command has the primary responsibility of ensuring that all current NOTAM information is received during a pre-flight briefing.
  • Automated Flight Service Station/Flight Service Station (AFSS/FSS) personnel provide D NOTAMs and L NOTAMs during standard, abbreviated, and outlook briefings, when pertinent to the flight. L NOTAMs are not available when you use Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) for a pre-flight briefing.
  • As noted above, L NOTAM information for non-local AFSS/FSS areas must be specifically requested directly from the AFSS/FSS that has responsibility for the airport concerned. Facility specific toll-free telephone numbers are available in the Airport/Facility Directory or by dialing 1-800-WX-BRIEF.
  • Because NOTAM data constantly changes, pilots should contact AFSS/FSS en route to obtain updated information.

It is also important to note that the NTAP (Notices to Airmen Publication) is issued every four weeks. When NOTAMs are published, they are no longer provided during a briefing. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the pilot to specifically request this information. By requesting NOTAMs, the opportunity for human error decreases and the pilot makes the runway a safer place for all.

Inez Kennedy is the Air Traffic Representative )AFSS) in the FAA's Office of Runway Safety.