What Are Aviation NOTAMs?

Air Traffic Control Tower
Air Traffic Control Tower

A NOTAM is a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) and is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It can be used when there is an issue with an airport, or for any other reason that needs to be announced to the pilots.

There are more than 30 different types of NOTAMs, some of which are listed below. However, most NOTAMs have similar content for restrictions:

  • Airport closure: This means that the airfield will not be open during certain hours. For example, if you have scheduled your flight to arrive at 6pm, but the airfield closes at 5pm, then this would be considered an airport closure.

  • Air traffic control clearance: This is where the controller clears you for take off or landing. If the airfield is closed, then the controller will need to clear you on another field.

  • Aircraft emergency: This usually refers to safety issues such as weather conditions, engine failure, etc.

  • Runway incursion: This is when an aircraft crosses over a runway without permission.

  • Instrument approach procedure: This is when you are given special instructions for landing, like holding short final, etc.

  • Take off restriction: This means that the pilot cannot take off from the airport until after the time specified in the NOTAM.

  • Weather information: This includes forecasts of wind speed, visibility, temperature, etc.

  • Traffic advisory: This is when the controller warns of traffic ahead.

You will also see a lot of NOTAMs that include the word “emergency” or “alert”, which are basically the same thing.

NOTAMs are extremely useful for both pilots and controllers. Not only does it give them a warning when necessary, but it also saves them money in the long run.

Many airports use NOTAMs to reduce their costs, and NOTAMs are issued electronically to ensure accuracy.

However, NOTAMs aren’t always accurate. Sometimes, the wrong NOTAM gets issued, and sometimes NOTAMs get forgotten altogether. As a result, the consequences can be severe.

For example, on September 29th 2014, a Boeing 737 skidded off the runway at Tokyo International Airport and crashed into a building. The incident killed five people and injured almost 200 others.

It was later discovered that the NOTAMs hadn’t been updated for several years. Had the NOTAM been updated, the accident might have been avoided.

What does NOTAM stand for in Air Traffic Control?

NOTAM stands for Notice For Airmen. After the CICA was ratified, the acronym became commonplace. Notifications to airmen were published in a regular publication of each country’s air authorities. Numerous changes and modifications to the CICA have led to a more automated system as we know today.

How do you find the current NOTAMs?

To find the current NOTAMs for airports, you should always check the official air authority.

For the US, you should check the FAAs official website: https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch/nsapp.html#/

You should know the airport or location of what NOTAMs you need and it will display to you the NOTAMs for that particular location.

For the UK, you should check the official NATS website: https://nats-uk.ead-it.com/cms-nats/opencms/en/NOTAM/

What are examples of NOTAMs?

This is an example of a NOTAM for New York JFK Airport:

Q) KZNY/QMXLC// / /000/999/
B) 21/01/08 13:28 C) 22/09/30 11:00

NOTAMs are published in all uppercase letters, which some claim makes them difficult to read. Some countries, such as the United States, may differ from the following ICAO standards.

  • The first line includes NOTAM identification (series number, sequence number and year of issue), type of operation (NEW or REPLACE or CANCEL) as well as a reference (for NOTAMR/ NOTAMC only).

  • The “Q” line contains information about the NOTAM’s beneficiaries, as well as a basic description of the NOTAM. This line can be encoded/decoded using tables from ICAO. This allows NOTAMs electronically to be displayed

  • The ICAO code for the affected aerodrome is “A”, or FIR in the NOTAM. The NOTAM’s area of influence can extend several hundred kilometres from the aerodrome that is the origin.

  • The “B” line includes the start and end dates, while the “C” line includes the finish and end times of the NOTAM. The fields “B” and C are in the format “YYMMDDhhmm”, with times in Universal Coordinated Time, also known as Universal Co-ordinated Timing or Zulutime.

  • The full NOTAM description is found in the “E” line. The NOTAM description is written in English, but it can be abbreviated. These abbreviations are encoded/decoded using tables created by ICAO.

  • If present, the “F” and the “G” lines indicate the height/altitude restrictions for the NOTAM. SFC is usually a surface height, or ground level. UNL is an unlimited height. Other heights can be given in feet, flight-level, or a combination.

How do I view old NOTAMs?

To view old NOTAMs, you should access: https://notams.aim.faa.gov/notamSearch/nsapp.html#/

Click the Location button to the left and choose “Archive Search.” Next, select a date and location designator to search the area for NOTAMs (including FFRs) that were in effect that day.

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