The Role of the FAA – Pilot and Aeronautical Information

Pilot and Aeronautical Information

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs)

Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, are time-critical aeronautical information either temporary in nature or not sufficiently known in advance to permit publication on aeronautical charts or in other operational publications. The information receives immediate dissemination via the National Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) System. NOTAMs contain current notices to airmen that are considered essential to the safety of flight, as well as supplemental data affecting other operational publications. There are many different reasons that NOTAMs are issued. Following are some of those reasons:

  • Hazards, such as air shows, parachute jumps, kite flying, and rocket launches
  • Flights by important people such as heads of state
  • Closed runways • Inoperable radio navigational aids
  • Military exercises with resulting airspace restrictions
  • Inoperable lights on tall obstructions
  • Temporary erection of obstacles near airfields
  • Passage of flocks of birds through airspace (a NOTAM in this category is known as a BIRDTAM)
  • Notifications of runway/taxiway/apron status with respect to snow, ice, and standing water (a SNOWTAM)
  • Notification of an operationally significant change in volcanic ash or other dust contamination (an ASHTAM)
  • Software code risk announcements with associated patches to reduce specific vulnerabilities
 

NOTAM information is generally classified into four categories: NOTAM (D) or NOTAMs that receive distant dissemination, distant and Flight Data Center (FDC) NOTAMs, Pointer NOTAMs, and Military NOTAMs pertaining to military airports or NAVAIDs that are part of the NAS. NOTAMs are available through Flight Service Station (FSS), Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS), private vendors, and many online websites.

NOTAM (D) Information

NOTAM (D) information is disseminated for all navigational facilities that are part of the NAS, and all public use airports, seaplane bases, and heliports listed in the Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory). NOTAM (D) information now includes such data as taxiway closures, personnel and equipment near or crossing runways, and airport lighting aids that do not affect instrument approach criteria, such as visual approach slope indicator (VASI). All D NOTAMs are required to have one of the following keywords as the first part of the text: RWY, TWY, RAMP, APRON, AD, OBST, NAV, COM, SVC, AIRSPACE, (U), or (O). [Figure 1-19]

Figure 1-19. NOTAM (D) Information.

Figure 1-19. NOTAM (D) Information. [click image to enlarge]

FDC NOTAMs

FDC NOTAMs are issued by the National Flight Data Center and contain information that is regulatory in nature pertaining to flight including, but not limited to, changes to charts, procedures, and airspace usage. FDC NOTAMs refer to information that is regulatory in nature and includes the following:

  • Interim IFR flight procedures:
    • Airway structure changes
    • Instrument approach procedure changes (excludes Departure Procedures (DPs) and Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARs)
    • Airspace changes in general
    • Special instrument approach procedure changes
  • Temporary flight restrictions:
    • Disaster areas
    • Special events generating a high degree of interest
    • Hijacking
    • Flight restrictions in the proximity of the President and other parties
    • 14 CFR part 139 certificated airport condition changes
    • Snow conditions affecting glide slope operation
    • Air defense emergencies
    • Emergency flight rules
    • Substitute airway routes
    • Special data
    • U.S. Government charting corrections
    • Laser activity
 

NOTAM Composition

NOTAMs contain the elements below from left to right in the following order:

  • An exclamation point (!)
  • Accountability Location (the identifier of the accountability location)
  • Affected Location (the identifier of the affected facility or location)
  • KEYWORD (one of the following: RWY, TWY, RAMP, APRON, AD, COM, NAV, SVC, OBST, AIRSPACE, (U) and (O))
  • Surface Identification (optional—this shall be the runway identification for runway related NOTAMs, the taxiway identification for taxiway-related NOTAMs, or the ramp/apron identification for ramp/apron-related NOTAMs)
  • Condition (the condition being reported)
  • Time (identifies the effective time(s) of the NOTAM condition)

Altitude and height are in feet mean sea level (MSL) up to 17,999; e.g., 275, 1225 (feet and MSL is not written), and in flight levels (FL) for 18,000 and above; e.g., FL180, FL550. When MSL is not known, above ground level (AGL) will be written (304 AGL).

When time is expressed in a NOTAM, the day begins at 0000 and ends at 2359. Times used in the NOTAM system are universal time coordinated (UTC) and shall be stated in 10 digits (year, month, day, hour, and minute). The following are two examples of how the time would be presented:

!DCA LDN NAV VOR OTS WEF
0708051600-0708052359

!DCA LDN NAV VOR OTS WEF
0709050000-0709050400

NOTAM Dissemination and Availability

The system for disseminating aeronautical information is made up of two subsystems: the Airmen’s Information System (AIS) and the NOTAM System. The AIS consists of charts and publications and is disseminated by the following methods:

Aeronautical charts depicting permanent baseline data:

  • IFR Charts—Enroute High Altitude Conterminous U.S., Enroute Low Altitude Conterminous U.S., Alaska Charts, and Pacific Charts
  • U.S. Terminal Procedures—Departure Procedures (DPs), Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARs) and Standard Instrument Approach Procedures (SIAPs)
  • VFR Charts—Sectional Aeronautical Charts, Terminal Area Charts (TAC), and World Aeronautical Charts (WAC)
 

Flight information publications outlining baseline data:

  • Notices to Airmen (NTAP)—Published by System Operations Services, System Operations and Safety, Publications, every 28 days)
  • Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory)
  • Pacific Chart Supplement
  • Alaska Supplement
  • Alaska Terminal
  • Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

NOTAMs are available in printed form through subscription from the Superintendent of Documents, from an FSS, or online at PilotWeb (www.pilotweb.nas.faa.gov), which provides access to current NOTAM information. Local airport NOTAMs can be obtained online from various websites. Some examples are www.fltplan.com and www.aopa.org/whatsnew/notams.html. Most sites require a free registration and acceptance of terms but offer pilots updated NOTAMs and TFRs.

Safety Program Airmen Notification System (SPANS)

In 2004, the FAA launched the Safety Program Airmen Notification System (SPANS), an online event notification system that provides timely and easy-to-assess seminar and event information notification for airmen. The SPANS system is taking the place of the current paper-based mail system. This provides better service to airmen while reducing costs for the FAA. Anyone can search the SPANS system and register for events. To read more about SPANS, visit www.faasafety.gov/spans.