What is a NOTAM?
A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is a way of letting pilots know pertinent information that changes often or wouldn’t be able to be published to a chart. For example, a NOTAM will be issued when:
- A runway is closed for construction or maintenance
- A crane is near the airport or other obstacle
- A taxiway is closed for repairs or maintenance
- Cell phone tower lights are burnt out
- Lot’s of other useful information for your flight!!!
Do you have to check NOTAMs before each flight?
Yes, it is important to do this. You don’t want to fly to an airport when the runway is closed, or be a Cessna shishkabob stuck on a crane near the airport because you didn’t know it was right on the final approach course while they are building the FAA office next to the airport.
How do I check NOTAMs?
Ah, this is a great question!!! There are lots of ways to check for NOTAMs, but most importantly of all the ways to check, you want to make sure you are getting accurate information, and playing the CYA game (cover your you know what). It’s important to check an approved source for NOTAMs (your cousin Bill may be a wealth of flying knowledge, but most likely is not an FAA-approved source). It’s also important you use a source that you can prove you checked (just in case you have to do some explaining one day down the road).
The best ways still remain to call a weather briefer at 1-800-992-7433 (WX-BRIEF), or visit 1800wxbrief.com
You may check these also via your EFB (iPad), but be sure the app you are using has DUATs credentials that records your name or tail number when you are checking for NOTAMs so you can prove down the road that you actually did.
The types of NOTAMs
There are five types of NOTAMs:
- NOTAM D
- “Distant” NOTAMs, these are useful when you plan to fly any distance. Think runway closures, tower light NOTAMs, and other things that may affect you in route not published in your paper charts.
- FDC NOTAM
- These are FLIGHT DATA CENTER NOTAMs. Think TFRs (temporary flight restrictions) and NOTAMs for instrument approaches (like the glideslope is out of service).
- Pointer NOTAM
- This is a NOTAM that “points” to another NOTAM, telling you to go read it (novel idea right? Only the government could think up something that smart).
- Military NOTAM
- Exclusive to airports and airspace used by the Military that is part of our National Airspace System (NAS)
- SAA NOTAM
- These NOTAMs are issued when Special Activity Airspace will be active outside the published schedule times and when required by the published schedule. Pilots and other users are still responsible to check published schedule times for Special Activity Airspace as well as any NOTAMs for that airspace.
How in the heck do you read those things???
Well, that’s why I recommend you call a briefer and have them decipher it for you. If you do want to decipher the NOTAMs yourself, it’s easier than you might think. There is an entire section of the Aeronautical information manual (AIM) that covers all of the abbreviations and contractions you will find in NOTAMs (it is section 5-1-4).