NOTAMs, NOTAMs and NOTAMs
Reviewing NOTAMs is a key element in trip planning and the day-of-operation orchestration of a business aviation flight. There are several methods of obtaining NOTAMs, and they can be accessed in different formats, but best practice is to review all NOTAMs for departure, destination, and alternate airport on your flight plan. If you are utilizing a 3rd-party provider, they should keep you updated on last-minute NOTAMs that may impact an active flight.
1. Know what a NOTAM is
Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) are used for flight safety to inform pilots about airport and airspace conditions. NOTAMs cover a multitude of topics, including airport closures and work in progress, fuel and parking shortages, and strikes, to name a few. Depending upon the airport or airspace involved, you may encounter just a few NOTAMs or a large volume.
2. Be aware of the different types of NOTAMs
An assortment of available NOTAMs include airway NOTAMs, airport/facility/procedural NOTAMs, and international NOTAMs, including airspace and oceanic NOTAMs. NOTAMs also cover Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for various sporting events, emergency scenes, or presidential movements. GPS NOTAMs pertain to GPS errors or outages.
3. Understand information contained in a NOTAM
Information contained will depend on NOTAM type. Airway NOTAMs, for example, update airways status with changes in altitude, route closures, and restrictions not listed on charts. Airport/facility/procedural NOTAMs provide information on runway/taxiway work, operating hours, SID or STAR changes, and anything pertaining to airport operations. TFRs may involve either airspace or airports and could be the result of emergency operations, sporting events, or VIP movements. NOTAMs usually provide very detailed information, to give crews as much data as possible. You can ask for either unedited NOTAMs via the AFTN circuit or plain language NOTAMs, which are easier to read. Abbreviations used in NOTAMs – and there can be a lot of them – are listed at www.faa.gov.
4. NOTAM information can be accessed in different ways
NOTAMs can be accessed online, via your 3rd-party provider or ground handler, and are also available at most airport weather stations. Best practice is to check NOTAMs early and often, both when planning your trip and on the day of operations. It’s recommended to obtain NOTAMs for departure point as well as destination airport and alternates. Some 3rd-party providers will update crew en-route when short-notice NOTAMs affect a particular flight.
NOTAMS are published for 30 days and then must be placed in an airport manual unless extenuating circumstances exist. For this reason, it’s important to review both NOTAMs and airport manuals prior to departure.
5. NOTAMS impact business aviation movements
Almost all NOTAMs affect business aviation in some way, and it’s important that each pilot obtain and review NOTAMs prior to departure. Occasionally, an important NOTAM will be issued while you’re in-flight. Examples include NOTAMs indicating lack of aircraft parking availability at your destination or temporary closures for general aviation (GA) operations. At some locations, including Brazil, high volumes of NOTAMs are published daily, as they include routing advisories as well as SID-STAR information. Not all NOTAMs are pertinent to GA flights. Department of Defense (DoD) NOTAMs, for example, affect only U.S. government operations, and some NOTAMs impact only scheduled commercial flights. Your 3rd-party provider will routinely forward all NOTAMs. It’s up to each pilot to decide which NOTAMs are pertinent for the particular flight.
6. NOTAMs are normally published with UTC times
All NOTAM times should be in “Zulu” (UTC) format, but local times are used in some cases. When local times are displayed in a NOTAM, they will always be indicated. NOTAMs are almost always published in English, as ICAO mandates, but this is not always the case. Morocco, for example, publishes NOTAMs in French. In cases such as this, it’s best to review the coded NOTAMS in AFTN format, using Q-codes (a digital format of NOTAM information).
7. Some locations issue large volumes of NOTAMS
Larger-than-normal NOTAM volume may be the result of extensive construction activity at an airfield. Some airfields may detail daily arrival and departure routing procedures via NOTAM. There may also be technical reasons for larger-than-normal volumes of NOTAMs. If a NOTAM is not correctly submitted with an end date, it will stay in the NOTAM system until the originator deletes it, and this happens frequently. Many airports in India publish large volumes of NOTAM data. This is usually a result of how Indian ATC submits NOTAM data.
8. Know general guidelines when reading NOTAM data
Resources are available to help translate NOTAM data and abbreviations. One of the best links to decipher/research obscure abbreviations is on the FAA’s website. Never guess at the meaning of a NOTAM. If there’s any doubt, contact your 3rd-party provider for clarification. Some NOTAM and weather abbreviations may be similar but have different meanings. “RW,” for example, may be an abbreviation for runway or it could mean “rain shower” in weather terminology. “SnowTAMS” are frequently issued in Europe to indicate levels of runway contamination due to snow.
Pilots should review NOTAMs thoroughly during the pre-departure stage. If there are any questions about NOTAMs, always contact your 3rd-party provider or ground handler for clarification. While not all NOTAMs are pertinent for GA operations, only the PIC can make this decision.
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