Flight crews can be faced with an unmanageable volume and quality of NOTAMs* when preparing for a flight. This means that crews have to weed through up to 100 pages of data for a long haul flight to try to find the relevant information they need to operate safely.
According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, on any given day, there are some 35,000 active NOTAM circulating in the global air transport system. In 2020, the total number of NOTAM issued exceeded 1.7 million.
The volume of information published through by NOTAM by Airports Operators, Air Navigation Service Providers, and States is often immense and still, in many cases, can become a barrier to ensuring that relevant safety and operationally critical information is rapidly identifiable by flight crews.
In fact, the volume of NOTAMs published has been identified as a leading contributor to several aircraft accidents. This is particularly important when the information contained in the NOTAM is no longer up to date, unclear or when a NOTAM should have been removed but is still active.
Airports are an important source of aeronautical information, including of course NOTAMs. It is of vital importance to provide safety critical information to flight crews, such as the status of infrastructure, availability of services or operating conditions at the aerodrome. A good example of this is the publication of runway surface conditions that will be optimized through the implementation of the Global Reporting Format (GRF). Flight crews rely on this information to be able to make important decisions and take actions in a timely manner.
Over the years there are approximately 100,000 more NOTAMs published per year to reach more or less 1.7 million NOTAMs in 2020. It is estimated that roughly 20% of all active NOTAMs in 2020 were older than 90 days.
This overall situation is a concern to airport operators as their priority is to ensure that flight crews are aware of changes and limitations that are published for a specific aerodrome.
Over the past few years, ICAO has been made aware of the issue and is now launching a Global campaign on NOTAMs improvement . This campaign will focus initially on the issue of old NOTAMs – information published for 90 days or more – which should already reduce the overall number of NOTAMs by up to 20%.
ICAO has also developed an online tool that is used to analyze the age of NOTAMs. As well as the age of the NOTAMs, it provides analysis by region and individual state. The data can even be downloaded for further analysis.
Airport operators are encouraged to work with all aviation stakeholders to take actions to ensure the operational relevance and timeliness of information promulgated by NOTAMs.
In this sense, to ensure quality and currency of NOTAMs that are available for their specific location, airports should:
If all the aviation stakeholders come together around this issue to ensure the only safety and operationally relevant NOTAMs are published and maintained relevant, the safety of flight operations will be reinforced for all.
*Officially defined by ICAO in Annex 15 and PANS-ABC (Doc 8400) as “NOTAM: a notice distributed by means of telecommunication containing information concerning the establishment, condition or change in any aeronautical facility, service, procedure or hazard, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations”.