Friday, February 17, 2012

Always Check NOTAMs -- Even When Running Drugs

Pilots and regular readers know that a NOTAM (NOtice To Air[wo]Men) is a little bulletin describing a change to facilities, airspace or procedures that isn't published on the current charts and publications. They look boring. They can be tedious and repetitive to read. Most of them won't pertain to your operation. If you fly out of some little flat bit of the wilderness airport there's probably a NOTAM about the airport lighting being unserviceable from shortly after the snow melts until whenever it is that gophers go back into hibernation.

You can look them up here for Canada if you know your airport identifier. They look like this.

CYHZ
110478 CYHZ CHURCH LAKE(WATER)
CHL3 AMEND PUB: OPR TEL TO READ 902-644-3604

110792 CYHZ AMHERST(HELI)
CCB3 AMEND PUB: NEW WIND FARM 15 TURBINES 0.7 NM RADIUS 455002N 641504W (APRX 1.8 NM NNW AD) 454 FT AGL 483 FT MSL. LGTD NOT PAINTED

110796 CYHZ STANLEY
CCW4 AMEND PUB: NEW TOWER 445602N 635751W (APRX 10 NM SSW AD) 299 FT AGL 988 MSL. NOT LGTD AND NOT PAINTED

110817 CYHZ NEW GLASGOW(ABERDEEN HOSP)(HELI)
OBST LGT U/S 12 TOWERS AT WINDFARM WITHIN 2.7 NM RADIUS 453359N 625746W (APRX 13 NM WNW AD) 377 FT AGL 1460 MSL
1111301630 TIL 1202291600

110844 CYHZ TRENTON
CYTN RNAV(GNSS) RWY 07, RNAV(GNSS) RWY 25 AND NDB RWY 25 APCH: RESTRICTED OPS SPEC 099 OR 410 REQUIRED AD VISUAL SFC NOT ASSESSED CREWS MUST BE FAMILIAR WITH AD ENVIRONMENT
1112151230 TIL APRX 1203161800

110845 CYHZ DEBERT
CCQ3 RNAV(GNSS) RWY 09 AND RNAV(GNSS) RWY 27 APCH ARE RESTRICTED. OPS SPEC 099 OR 410 REQUIRED. AD VISUAL SFC NOT ASSESSED. CREWS MUST BE FAMILIAR WITH AD ENVIRONMENT
1112151230 TIL APRX 1203161800

That's less than half of the Halifax NOTAMs this afternoon. If you're really operating out of Halifax you need to read them all, plus all the ones for the place you are going, and the ones covering airspace you'll be passing through, and possible diversion airports. The float plane guys don't care about the GNSS approaches. The airlines don't care about the windfarms. No one on wheels cares about the change in the operator's telephone number for the Church Lake waterdrome, but they are filed by the order they were filed in, and no one has realized the safety benefit of somehow filtering or classifying them.

They're a fairly often neglected aspect of flight planning. If you're flying between familiar aerodromes on a regular basis, there's a strong temptation to skip them. The flight briefers don't give them unless you ask. (And I still haven't forgiven the briefer I asked for NOTAMs for a flight from Meadow Lake to Buffalo Narrows, who neglected to tell me that the airspace I was chartered to fly through was in use by the Canadian military and their international guests for fighter jet exercises. It's the only time I've called and asked to speak to the supervisor of someone paid to provide me with flight services.) I have fielded a phone call from an airborne coworker who sighted vehicles working in the vicinity of his destination runway, "Avi, could you please check and see if there's a NOTAM ..." (There was).

So I can see how if you were conducting an operation that wasn't actually legal in the first place, transporting certain agricultural products, for example, that you just might not bother to check them. But these folks would have had a better day had they done so. A US reader will probably clarify the difference, but the Americans do have what I'm going to term a special relative of the NOTAM called the TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) which highlights what in Canada would be NOTAMs restricting airspace to certain operations. They probably did this because people were missing NOTAMs and ending up on the windshield of Air Force One, but what it probably does is make the problem worse, with people clicking on the fun little map that tells you where they don't want you flying today (hey, is President Obama in Seattle today?) and then figuring that covers the important stuff and not going through to the boring list of nav aid outages.

15 comments:

etully said...

Your last paragraph seems to take yet another cheap shot at Americans, this time aimed at the U.S. pilot. Perhaps you are being funny and witty, but enough is enough and I must delete you from my favorites list.

Aviatrix said...

I'm sorry etully, and anyone else offended by the paragraph. If you'll tell me what is offensive I'll change it. My guesses are:

- I called the map "fun" (I do think it's fun. I like maps)
- I said that people were missing NOTAMs (but coming at the end of a post on Canadian pilots missing NOTAMs, I don't see how that's a shot at Americans).
- My bold they? No that's not about pilots. And everyone knows they no no national boundaries.
- "ending up on the windshield of Air Force One"? (no one actually ends up on the windshield, but even with the TFRs it isn't hard to find stories about airspace violators).
- the implication that US pilots find it boring to look at NOTAMs?

The whole POST is about the fact that pilots find it boring to look at NOTAMs. If Canadians had a fun little map we'd do the same thing.

The only purpose of that paragraph was to be inclusive of my American readers and to pre-empt comments that it technically it was a TFR not a NOTAM that the C182 was violating, just in case Americans don't consider TFRs to be a sort of NOTAM.

It seems that every time I point out a difference between our national systems, an American reader interprets it as my calling the different system inferior. Even if I say I like mine better, or point out an apparent flaw in the foreign system, I'm not saying you're wrong! I probably just prefer what I'm used to.

Devil in the Drain said...

Here, I'll put up a vote to cancel out etully. As a U.S. citizen, I declare this post Not Offensive.

Amusing plus interesting.

(Plus, that FAA map you linked to has got to be the worst online map interface since about 1998. Can't the FAA pay Google to do their map for them?)

Anonymous said...

Funnest thing about the fun map: the favicon is a Sun Microsystems logo.

DataPilot said...

Aviatrix! It's so good to hear from you.

This story is the funniest thing I've read all week. It sort of reminds me of (numerous) examples of dumb drug runners getting stopped on the freeway doing 90 MPH.

By the way, my US citizenship has in no way impaired my ability to appreciate your humor. And I thought the map was fun, too!

Cedarglen said...

Nice to see a post from you. I thought it amusing and suspect that etully's shorts are a bit too tight today.

etully said...

Don't apologize, please accept mine. I have always held the highest regard and esteem for Canadians. I read your article too fast and thus got the wrong impression. Also, I have always enjoyed your writing as I fly for fun and must feed my mind with things aviation. Please forgive me for my comment.

Ed

Anonymous said...

This is one of the few things that will result in having your pilot certificate permanently revoked, with no opportunity to reapply.

See 49 USC 44703(f) and 49 USC 44710.

Dave W said...

Being from the UK, I enjoy all your posts and have no issue with either Canada or the USA, great to see harmony prevailing - goes to show the good vibes your blog ultimately garner.....

All the very best to you and your followers!

Dave from the UK :)

ps, did I miss the solution to solve for x??

majroj said...

FAA is notoriously backwards in some ways...like computers, satellites, labor relations, human resource management, and "right-sizing" operations to ground infrastructure (the groundlings will figure out how to move the pax and their cars and luggage, just push more tin over the hammerhead, thanks). (;)

small private airplane attorneys said...

Nice observation etully.

Michael5000 said...

I like the "12.87-kilometre radius."

Security Dude #1: "12.83 kilometres aren't enough to protect the President!"

Security Dude #2: "O.K., O.K., we'll make it 12.87... kilometers! But you know, it's not supposed to rhyme with 'waitress.'"

Anoynmous said...

While you're at it, could you make it another 4.7 meters? That'll bring it up to a nice round 8 miles...

Anonymous said...

I am afraid our Aviatrix has discovered boys folks,it was bound to happen sometime

Anonymous said...

I have accepted the inevitable.
Sadly I have deleted you from my toolbar.
(:(((
Good luck in whatever you are doing.