We can start ignoring NOTAMs pretty soon

Pilots have a love/hate relationship with NOTAMs.  We love that they can alert us to things like closed runways or temporary flight restrictions.  But we hate reading through dozens of NOTAMs for unlit, 300 foot towers when we plan to cruise at 8,000 feet.  The really important NOTAMs are buried in a long list of NOTAMs that don’t apply.  That’s all about to change.


Admittedly, the title was selected to catch your attention. I certainly don’t propose pilots ignore all NOTAMs. Instead, the FAA and industry stakeholders are working towards new solutions that will reduce the overwhelming volume of NOTAMs that pilots have to sift through prior to flight.

Less NOTAMs = better NOTAMs

There are just too many NOTAMs. A 200 mile flight can lead to page after page of NOTAMs. While every NOTAM is important to someone, most are applicable to only a small segment of users. I don’t care about taxiway wingspan limitations of 200 feet when I’m flying a Mooney. Irrelevant (to my flight) NOTAMs only clog up preflight activities, detract from the applicable NOTAMs, and create unnecessary workload.

It’s not about reducing the total number of NOTAMs in the system. It’s about presenting pilots with only those NOTAMs that actually matter to that pilot for that flight. Wouldn’t you agree that pilots are more likely to read, understand, and follow NOTAMs when there are less overall, and only applicable NOTAMs are presented?

Search, Sort, and Filter

The Pilot’s Bill of Rights was signed into law on August 3, 2012 and included provisions for the creation of a NOTAM Improvement Panel that would review the FAA’s progress and make recommendations for future improvements. The FAA finally complied and created the group in the summer of 2013. I am excited to represent AOPA members as the Co-Chairman of the NOTAM Improvement Task Group. Over the past few months, a dozen-plus representatives of various stakeholders have met multiple times to review the FAA’s NOTAM improvement progress and make recommendations on further refinements.

The most significant improvement to NOTAM delivery will come from the ability to filter out NOTAMs. This will reduce the overall volume of NOTAMs that a pilot sees. Next, a pilot can sort the results so that the most important NOTAMs (runway closed, TFRs, etc.) appear at the top of the report. Additional enhancements will include the option for plain language, lower-case lettering, and graphic NOTAMs.

 Crawl, walk, run

Before we can really leverage the power of search, sort, and filter, we need digital NOTAM data. These NOTAMs follow strict formatting rules that enable a computer to run the algorithms to search, sort, and filter. Trouble is, only about 60% of all NOTAMs are digitized today. The remaining 40% come from the smaller airports that serve primarily, or exclusiv3ely, general aviation traffic. That is why AOPA is pushing hard for 100% digitization of NOTAMs.

The real magic in digitized NOTAMs will be realized through third-party vendors. They will be able to integrate the NOTAM data and manipulate the presentation to be even more useful to pilots. Imagine looking at an airport diagram on your tablet computer and visually seeing a taxiway colored red. It’s a graphic depiction of the NOTAM letting pilot’s know about a closed taxiway. I think we are just scratching the surface of what technology will enable. Ultimately, we are headed towards more applicable NOTAMs, delivered at the right time, and in a format that pilots can easily use.


What improvements to the NOTAM system would you like to see implemented?

18 Responses to “We can start ignoring NOTAMs pretty soon”

  1. Joe Lockhart says:

    Plain language!

  2. Bill Hoglan says:

    Finally attention to all the notams! Tower lights use to be local notams. NO Local notams were given in a briefing unless ask for. The FAA is worried so much about law suits they notam everything. Like mowing around an airport and all the burned out lights at lower altitudes. Bill H. Retired FSS.

  3. John R says:

    Ditto…Plain language in a standard format.

  4. Bob Yarmey says:

    Notams limited to 50 miles of flight route.

  5. Stephen M says:

    A single source for NOTAMs, including published and unpublished.

    We had a guy yesterday at the airport ask FSS for a NOTAM on the increased MDA of an instrument approach due to a crane near the airport. The briefer had to look around for 5 minutes to find the NOTAM. Had it been a standard briefing he would not have received that NOTAM because it is now published. You are supposed to look up published NOTAMs yourself.

    How about one single place to get everything.

  6. Jay says:

    “We have the best system in the world; it’s time for a change.”
    Hmmm. Now where have I heard that before?

  7. Don says:

    Stephen M. is right on target. There is no reason any longer to maintain the confusion over published and unpublished NOTAMs. Many pilots do not understand what they are getting and when I have asked FSS briefers whether they are giving me both published and unpublished NOTAMs, they typically have no idea what I am talking about. They only seem to know that they are giving the data presented to them in the computer. That system-induced confusion should be eliminated.

  8. Mike Brown says:

    I’ve always found it annoying to have to wade through page after page of security NOTAMS which haven’t changed since 9/11/2001, about things I have no intention of doing in places I’m not going, written in arcane language I have trouble deciphering. How about putting all the NOTAMS which haven’t changed in three months or more someplace other than in the briefing? They can be replaced by a note saying “5 permanent NOTAMS on file”. If you’ve read them before, you can ignore them. If the number changes, you can look at them (preferably, sorted by date of last update).

  9. charlie white says:

    YAHOOOOOOOOOOO! ‘can’t wait for these changes. FINALLY, getting away from all those CODES which can be confusing and obnoxious. I understand that there are folks out there who will disagree because they have memorized all those codes because they use them EVERY DAY — the rest of us have to take time to interpret and will often ignore because of the confusion they cause. Charging out to the sky without a good weather and NOTAM briefing causes increased traffic on the frequencies, thus depriving information really needed by someone else. Targeted NOTAMS will be a god-send! :-) :-) :-)

  10. Jeff Klaas says:

    The 3 day NOTAM issue limit is a bit harsh for issues known well in advance – such as airport closure for paving. The person that took my NOTAM the other day did not seem to know about the 3 day limit or if he did, it was not mentioned.

  11. Claude von Plato says:

    I have a basic question for the FAA : Why does it take a law to get common sense into your activities? NOTAMs are just one in an extremely long list of “Get Your S*%$ Together” items that need serious attention. It’s not 1950 any more. Wake up.

    • david root says:

      Alot of the NOTAMs seem to me to be C.Y.A. God forbid someone should hit a tower 800 ft high 1000 ft south of centerline. What are you doing out there in the first place? Once again, lawyers are the tail wagging the dog. I actually saw several NOTAMs for 4th of July fireworks IN MAY!

  12. McGregor Scott says:

    NOTAMS grouped in a meaningful way, Plain language, sortable by relevance, one source for all – These are repeats of above.

    Also, it would be helpful to somehow graphically present NOTAMS that call out Lat/Lon or distance/bearings from VORs, like we have for AIRMETS, etc.

  13. RDB says:

    Besides the problem of filtering and sorting the NOTAMS, there is the problem of simply reading a NOTAM. I urge the FAA to print/display NOTAMS in a format that makes them more readable. Bullet lists, paragraph breaks and text highlighting would make the NOTAMS much easier to read and understand.

  14. Jay says:

    Sure, and now is the time to get all these changes made, (tic). And we could call it “The Affordable Aviation Act.”

  15. Spanky says:

    Duats I believe does have some sort of notam selection criterion
    As said prior for security notams
    list the number of notams
    anynew notams / date
    and then by location /date /new notam first etc..

  16. Steve says:

    MAYBE WE CAN FiNALLY GET RID OF NOTAMS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS. This is a leftover from the days of mechanical teletype machines, as are the abundance of abbreviations routinely used. Modern telecommunications technology requires neither. The all cap format is difficult to read, which further complicates the chore of sifting through all the notams that could potentially affect a flight.

  17. George says:

    I would like to see a sorting system where a pilot or Wx specialist can easily tell if a Notam is new or old. Maybe a format where the 1st few characters relate to a date, followed by a sorting alphanumeric to identify the Notam, followed by the facility identifier. For example: 2013/12-KTPA-0001 meaning, year 2013, 12th month, airport ID, Notam 0001. If the same Notam is modified maybe it should be amended to 2013/12-KTPA-0001A, and if it is modified again 2013/12-KTPA-0001B, etc. If a new Notam is generated for such facility maybe it can follow in sequence as 2013/12-KTPA-0002, etc. Cancelled Notams should be withdrawn from circulation without any further notice to users. Just something to think about…