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The Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) System is Messed Up

Normal Procedures

I hate NOTAMS. I have been at war with them since 1990 when I fought (and lost) the Holy Crusade Against NOTAMS. Everything about them is just wrong. It would be quite easy to come up with a better system. You simply ask each airport and airspace manager to come up with a simple sentence that conveys just what the pilot needs to know.

Why is this important? Because the system is supposed to convey critical information to pilots that can impact decision making, but often disguise that information so as to obscure it. See: Malaysia MH17 for a tragic example.

In the How Not to Do NOTAMS example covering KJFK below, there are 10 lines scattered into an 80 line list that pertain to a runway closure that isn't revealed until line 56. Now what happens if you were counting on that particular runway and missed those 10 obscure lines hidden away among 70 others talking about nonstandard lighting and an NDB that was decommissioned? Who will come to your defense?

Why not just write the NOTAM so it (a) is in English, (b) organizes each NOTAM by topic, and (c) puts a priority on what is really important.

In our 80 line train wreck of a NOTAM example, why can't the KJFK airport manager simply say: "Runway 04R/22L is under construction from February 27th to June 1st of this year and will be closed." My, that was hard!


Definitions

[ICAO Annex 15, p. 1-6] 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.

[Aeronautical Information Manual, ¶5-1-3] NOTAM information is that aeronautical information that could affect a pilot’s decision to make a flight. It includes such information as airport or aerodrome primary runway closures, taxiways, ramps, obstructions, communications, airspace, changes in the status of navigational aids, ILSs, radar service availability, and other information essential to planned en route, terminal, or landing operations.

A Brief History of NOTAMS

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Figure: The Honolulu IFSS teletype, circa 1964, from the FAA.

NOTAMS have been around since at least 1921, when they were written in plain, easy to understand English. The purpose, very plainly, was to protect the pilot from something he or she didn't know. For example, this comes from January 27, 1921:

[Flight Magazine, p. 59] Donibristle Aerodrome - Obstructions
With reference to Notices to Airmen No. 49 of 1920 and No. 2 of 1921, pilots are also warned that a row of poles 18 feet high, carrying electric light cables, has been erected at Donibristle aerodrome.

So they were wasting our time with things we didn't need to know way back then. But at least is was written in plain English. But all that changed in 1924 with the advent of "data interchange on paper tapes."

Why NOTAMS are so Awful

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Figure: Paper Tapes, from Ted Coles.

[Zee]

  • There are three parts to the problem: the system, the format, and the content. The system is actually quite amazing. The AFTN network connects every country in the world, and Notam information once added is immediately available to every user. Coupled with the Internet, delivery is immediate.
  • The format is, at best, forgivable. It’s pretty awful. It’s a trip back in time to when Notams were introduced. You might think that was the 1960’s, or the 50’s. In fact, it’s 1924, when 5-bit ITA2 was introduced. The world shifted to ASCII in 1963, bringing the Upper and Lower case format that every QWERTY keyboard uses today, but we didn’t follow – nope, we’ll stick with our 1924 format, thank you.
  • Read that again. 1924. Back then, upper case code-infested aeronautical messages would have seemed impressive and almost reassuring in their aloofness. But there weren’t in excess of 1 million Notams per year, a milestone we passed in 2013. The 1 million milestone is remarkable in itself, but here’s something else amazing: in 2006, there were only 500,000. So in seven years, Notams doubled. Why? Are there twice as many airports in the world? No. Twice as many changes and updates? Possibly. But far more likely: the operating agencies became twice as scared about leaving things out.
  • And so onto the culprit: the content. The core definition of a Notam is ESSENTIAL flight information. Essential, for anyone tasked with entering information into the Notam System, is defined as “absolutely necessary; extremely important”. Here’s a game you can play at home. Take your 100 page printout of Notams, and circle that ones that you think can be defined as essential. See how many fit that bill.
  • So why is all this garbage in the system? Because the questions that the creators of Notams ask are flawed. The conversation goes like this:
    • “Should we stick this into a Notam?”
    • “Yeah, we’d better, just in case”.
  • How many are actually asking, “Is this essential information that aircrew need to know about ?”. Almost none. Many ‘solutions’ to the Notam deluge involve better filtering, Q codes, and smart regex’s. This overlooks the core problem. It’s not what comes out that needs to be fixed, it’s what goes in.

An Accident Case Study

In most cases, a missed NOTAM only results in a little embarrassment for the pilot. But there have been cases where a poorly written NOTAM has cost lives. For years this has been a controversial statement because most accidents have a chain of circumstances and defenders of the status quo could point to other causes. "See! It wasn't our fault!"

All that ended with the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Here is the most pertinent NOTAM in effect when that airplane overflew the Ukraine:

A1492/14 NOTAM
Q) UKDV/QRTCA/IV/BO /W /260/320/4822N03807E095
A) UKDV
B) 1407141800 C) 1408142359EST
E) TEMPO RESTRICTED AREA INSTALLED WITHIN FIR DNIPROPETROVSK
BOUNDED BY COORDINATES : 495355N 0380155E 485213N 0372209E 480122N
0370253E 471352N 0365856E 465018N 0374325E 465900N 0382000E
470642N 0381324E
THEN ALONG STATE BOUNDARY UNTIL POINT 495355N 0380155E.
RESTRICTION NOT APPLIED FOR FLIGHTS OF STATE ACFT OF UKRAINE.
F) FL260 G) FL320)

Did you take away from this NOTAM that two aircraft had been shot down in the previous three days in this airspace? Even if the "F) FL260 G) FL320" caught your attention and even if your plan, as with MH17, was to overfly at FL330, would knowing that there was a war going on down below have changed your decision making? What if you heard the bad guys had a surface to air missile that could reach aircraft up to 70,000 feet? Now what decision would you make?

An Automated Approach (Not Good Enough)

There are NOTAM decoders out there, like http://www.drorpilot.com/English/notam.htm. While these do a marvelous job of converting the gibberish into English, they do very little by way of reorganizing and prioritizing. In the case of our previously cited NOTAM, the translator comes up with this:

Temporary RESTRICTED AREA INSTALLED WITHIN Flight information region DNIPROPETROVSK BOUNDED BY COORDINATES : 495355N 0380155E 485213N 0372209E 480122N 0370253E 471352N 0365856E 465018N 0374325E 465900N 0382000E 470642N 0381324E THEN ALONG STATE BOUNDARY UNTIL POINT 495355N 0380155E. RESTRICTION NOT APPLIED FOR FLIGHTS OF STATE Aircraft OF UKRAINE. F) FL260 G) FL320

More readable, yes. But does it really say anything?

So How Do We Fix This?

It's easy enough to say the ICAO is to blame since everyone is more or less required to follow their lead. But what exactly does the ICAO require? Let's take a look.

[ICAO Annex 15, ¶5.1.1.] A NOTAM shall be originated and issued concerning the following information:

  1. establishment, closure or significant changes in operation of aerodrome(s)/heliport(s) or runways;
  2. Good!

  3. establishment, withdrawal and significant changes in operation of aeronautical services (AGA, AIS, ATS, CNS, MET, SAR, etc.);
  4. Good!

  5. establishment, withdrawal and significant changes in operational capability of radio navigation and air-ground communication services. This includes: interruption or return to operation, change of frequencies, change in notified hours of service, change of identification, change of orientation (directional aids), change of location, power increase or decrease amounting to 50 per cent or more, change in broadcast schedules or contents, or irregularity or unreliability of operation of any radio navigation and air-ground communication services;
  6. Good!

  7. establishment, withdrawal or significant changes made to visual aids;
  8. Good!

  9. interruption of or return to operation of major components of aerodrome lighting systems;
  10. Okay, but . . .

  11. establishment, withdrawal or significant changes made to procedures for air navigation services;
  12. Perhaps unnecessary in an age where we get our procedures delivered electronically.

  13. occurrence or correction of major defects or impediments in the manoeuvring area;
  14. Okay, but . . .

  15. changes to and limitations on availability of fuel, oil and oxygen;
  16. Why is that in a NOTAM?

  17. major changes to search and rescue facilities and services available;
  18. Okay, but . . .

  19. establishment, withdrawal or return to operation of hazard beacons marking obstacles to air navigation;
  20. Okay, but . . .

  21. changes in regulations requiring immediate action, e.g. prohibited areas for SAR action;
  22. What?

  23. presence of hazards which affect air navigation (including obstacles, military exercises, displays, races and major parachuting events outside promulgated sites);
  24. Okay, but . . .

  25. erecting or removal of, or changes to, obstacles to air navigation in the take-off/climb, missed approach, approach areas and runway strip;
  26. Okay, but . . .

  27. establishment or discontinuance (including activation or deactivation) as applicable, or changes in the status of prohibited, restricted or danger areas;
  28. Okay, but . . .

  29. establishment or discontinuance of areas or routes or portions thereof where the possibility of interception exists and where the maintenance of guard on the VHF emergency frequency 121.5 MHz is required;
  30. Okay, but . . .

  31. allocation, cancellation or change of location indicators;
  32. Okay, but . . .

  33. significant changes in the level of protection normally available at an aerodrome/heliport for rescue and fire fighting purposes. NOTAM shall be originated only when a change of category is involved and such change of category shall be clearly stated (see Annex 14, Volume I, Chapter 9, and Attachment A, Section 18);
  34. Okay, but . . .

  35. presence or removal of, or significant changes in, hazardous conditions due to snow, slush, ice, radioactive material, toxic chemicals, volcanic ash deposition or water on the movement area;
  36. Okay, but . . .

  37. outbreaks of epidemics necessitating changes in notified requirements for inoculations and quarantine measures;
  38. Okay, but . . .

  39. forecasts of solar cosmic radiation, where provided;
  40. Okay, but . . .

  41. an operationally significant change in volcanic activity, the location, date and time of volcanic eruptions and/or horizontal and vertical extent of volcanic ash cloud, including direction of movement, flight levels and routes or portions of routes which could be affected;
  42. Good!

  43. release into the atmosphere of radioactive materials or toxic chemicals following a nuclear or chemical incident, the location, date and time of the incident, the flight levels and routes or portions thereof which could be affected and the direction of movement;
  44. Good!

  45. establishment of operations of humanitarian relief missions, such as those undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations, together with procedures and/or limitations which affect air navigation; and
  46. Okay, but . . .

  47. implementation of short-term contingency measures in cases of disruption, or partial disruption, of air traffic services and related supporting services.
  48. Good!

So it appears that of the 24 items required to be NOTAM'd that only 7 meet my definition of information essential to pilots. You might be able to argue that the other 17 items are "essential to personnel concerned with flight operations" as required by the ICAO. But who are these NOTAMS intended for? If you are the guy in charge of painting taxiway signs at John F. Kennedy International Airport you probably care deeply about the 8 NOTAMS about signs listed among the 80 NOTAMS at KJFK in our example below. Me, not so much. So that's step one, take the items that are not essential to the pilot and put them someplace else.

Take a look at the KFJK example below in its raw form and a few things should smack you right between the eyes:

  1. The sheer length of it all — 80 lines!
  2. The amount of minutiae — 70 of those lines are not essential information!
  3. The randomness of it — The most significant item is about a three month runway closure and it doesn't appear until line 56.

So that's the next step in fixing this mess. We need to reorganize and prioritize. Why not a few headings to help things out: Airspace Warnings, Airport and Runway Closures and Changes, Changes to Navigation, Everything Else.

Finally, what about all the jargon and acronyms? Back in the day all of this got transmitted by ticker tape and we were conserving on key strokes and data bits, maybe all this made economical sense. But in today's digital age, we need to ditch the terse, all caps, alphabet soup in favor of spoken language. Instead of:

JFK 02/505 (A1518/17) JFK RWY 04R/22L CLSD 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/499 (A1510/17) JFK RWY 04R/22L WIP CONST LGTD AND BARRICADED
1702270400-1706012100

Why not:

JFK Runway 04R/22L is closed from 27 February 2017 0400 UTC until 1 June 2017 2100 UTC

A Few Steps to Enhance your Situational Awareness

Step One: Understand the Purpose of NOTAMS

You need to understand that the purpose of NOTAMS is to protect everyone except the pilot. If you have the ability to add to the NOTAM system, you will do so freely to protect yourself (not the pilot) from future blame should anything go wrong. Is there a chance an airplane can be damaged by a poorly lit sign? Write a NOTAM about it! "See! I warned you!" The result is too many insignificant NOTAMS that hide the important ones, and poorly written NOTAMS designed to protect the bureaucrat from other bureaucrats.

As pilots, we need to read each NOTAM suspiciously. What are they trying to hide?

Step Two: Improve your Situational Awareness with an Ally

As pilots we don't have the time to become political experts for every region of the world we find ourselves and we certainly don't have the expertise. But there are a lot of us out there and chances are someone knows something we need to get smart about. I recommend you arm yourself with a network of such people. I use the OpsGroup run by a friend of mine, Mark Zee. There you will find their most recent Overflight and Security Map. Here is a recent copy:

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Photo: World Overflight Map, from Flight Service Bureau, Airspace Summary

I also recommend a good international trip planner with experience in the regions you will be visiting and overflying. Even if you are an old hand at filing the flight plans, dealing with the airports, taking care of customs, and negotiating the slots, it pays to have someone who keeps on top of the risks full time. We use Rockwell-Collins. I asked them how they handled the Ukraine situations in 2014 and here is what they said:

WITH REGARDS TO OPERATIONS OVER THE UKRAINE, WE WOULD HAVE CEASED TO ROUTE AIRCRAFT OVER THAT COUNTRY AT THE END OF APRIL 2014, WHEN THE FAA ISSUED THE SFAR PROHIBITING US LICENSED PILOTS, CARRIERS, AND REGISTERED AIRCRAFT FROM UTILIZING THE UKFV FIR. ALTHOUGH THE RESTRICTION WAS LIMITED TO THAT FIR, INTERNALLY WE MADE IT POLICY TO AVOID THE ENTIRE AIRSPACE, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED FROM THE OPERATOR.

OUR COMPLIANCE DEPARTMENT WILL ADVISE US WHEN NEW SFARs ARE ISSUED, AS THEY RECEIVE THE SECURITY ALERTS FROM THE FAA.

SECURITY ALERTS ARE ALSO RECEIVED FROM A THIRD PARTY SECURITY COMPANY AND OUR GROUND AGENTS.

FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN THE COUP WAS ATTEMPTED IN TURKEY LAST YEAR, WE RECEIVED WORD FROM BOTH THE SECURITY FIRM AND OUR GROUND AGENT. EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NOT A SPECIFIC PROHIBITION AGAINST FLIGHTS OVER TURKEY, WE ROUTED FLIGHTS AROUND THAT AIRSPACE DUE TO THE INSTABILITY AND MILITARY ACTION.

Step Three: Sift Through the Minutiae

If presented with an impossibly long sequence of NOTAMS, you simply have to read all of them with an eye towards getting rid of the garbage. My technique:

  1. Keep a highlighter handy.
  2. Read each line for the terms "airspace," "runway," or anything else that seems critical. Look for "taxiway" and similar terms combined with "closed" but pass on combinations that include terms like "non-standard."
  3. Highlight the lines that are important.
  4. Ignore everything else.

 

How Not to Do NOTAMS — An everyday example

If you are a pilot you can stop reading now, you know how bad it is. If you are someone responsible for writing NOTAMS, try to look at things from our perspective. We have the lives of people in our hands and are trying to make "go" / "no go" decisions. We are pretty busy, what with having to defy gravity and all. Now imagine you are flying into John F. Kennedy International Airport. Strap in . . .

This from KJFK, 7 May 2017:

JFK 05/074 (A2859/17) JFK RWY 04L/22R CLSD 1705081400-1705081700
JFK 05/073 (A2858/17) JFK RWY 13L/31R CLSD 1705080300-1705080900
JFK 05/069 JFK TWY E HLDG PSN SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR RWY 13L/31R LGT
OUT OF SERVICE 1705070418-1706302000
JFK 05/068 JFK AIRSPACE SEE FDC 7/1330 ZBW 91.141 VIP TFR
1705072300-1705080015
JFK 05/067 (A2852/17) JFK TWY A BTN TWY F AND TWY G CLSD
1705061851-1705091100
JFK 05/054 JFK TWY U HLDG PSN SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR APCH END RWY 13L
NOT LGTD 1705050827-1705312359
JFK 04/306 (A2749/17) JFK TWY DB HLDG PSN SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR RWY
13L/31R MISSING 1704291059-1705272300
JFK 04/305 JFK TWY KD HLDG PSN SIGN WEST SIDE FOR RWY 13R/31L NOT STD
1704291054-1705272359
JFK 04/303 (A2748/17) JFK TWY ZA HLDG PSN SIGN EAST SIDE FOR RWY
13L/31R MISSING 1704291043-1705272359
JFK 04/302 (A2747/17) JFK TWY ZA HLDG PSN SIGN WEST SIDE FOR RWY
13L/31R NOT STD 1704291036-1705272359
JFK 04/301 JFK TWY MD HLDG PSN SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR RWY 13R/31L NOT
LGTD 1704291027-1705272300
JFK 04/220 (A2630/17) JFK TWY CD HLDG PSN SIGN NORTHWEST SIDE FOR RWY
13L/31R NOT LGTD 1704220930-1705222359
JFK 04/152 (A2551/17) JFK AD AP FRICTION MEASURING DEVICE OUT OF SERVICE
1704140900-1705201900
JFK 04/146 (A2542/17) JFK TWY JB CL LGT BTN TWY J AND RWY 13R/31L
OUT OF SERVICE 1704130914-1706011600
JFK 04/145 JFK TWY E HLDG PSN SIGN SOUTHEAST SIDE FOR RWY 13L/31R NOT
STD 1704130407-1705201300
JFK 04/026 (A2381/17) JFK RWY 13R/31L SE 501FT CLSD. DECLARED DIST: RWY 13R TORA
14010FT TODA 14010FT
ASDA 14010FT LDA 11967FT. RWY 31L TORA 13806FT TODA 13806FT ASDA 13806FT LDA
11248FT. 1704031808-1706012100
JFK 03/308 (A2089/17) JFK NAV OGY NDB OUT OF SERVICE 1703201737-PERM
JFK 03/055 (A1713/17) JFK RWY 04R RVRM OUT OF SERVICE
1703061315-1706012359
JFK 03/054 (A1712/17) JFK RWY 04R RVRR OUT OF SERVICE
1703061314-1706012359
JFK 03/047 (A1695/17) JFK TWY J CL LGT BTN RWY 04R/22L AND RWY 04L/22R
OUT OF SERVICE 1703041030-1706012300
JFK 02/562 (A1592/17) JFK RWY 22L PAPI OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012359
JFK 02/561 (A1589/17) JFK RWY 22L ALS OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012359
JFK 02/560 (A1588/17) JFK RWY 04R ALS OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012359
JFK 02/559 (A1591/17) JFK RWY 22L RVR OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012359
JFK 02/557 (A1587/17) JFK NAV ILS RWY 22L OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012300
JFK 02/556 (A1586/17) JFK NAV ILS RWY 04R OUT OF SERVICE
1702270400-1706012359
JFK 02/507 (A1520/17) JFK TWY H BTN RWY 04R/22L AND TWY Y CLSD
1702270400-1711172100
JFK 02/506 (A1519/17) JFK TWY Z BTN APCH END RWY 04R AND TWY Y CLSD
1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/505 (A1518/17) JFK RWY 04R/22L CLSD 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/504 (A1517/17) JFK TWY E BTN APCH END RWY 22L AND APCH END RWY
22R CLSD 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/503 (A1516/17) JFK TWY FB BTN RWY 04R/22L AND TWY Y CLSD
1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/502 (A1515/17) JFK TWY J BTN RWY 04R/22L AND TWY JB CLSD
1702270000-1706012100
JFK 02/501 (A1513/17) JFK TWY JA CLSD 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/500 (A1511/17) JFK TWY Y BTN TWY E AND TWY FB CLSD
1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/499 (A1510/17) JFK RWY 04R/22L WIP CONST LGTD AND BARRICADED
1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/498 (A1514/17) JFK RWY 13L/31R WIP CONST SE END LGTD AND
BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/497 (A1512/17) JFK RWY 13R/31L WIP CONST SE END LGTD AND
BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/496 (A1509/17) JFK RWY 13L/31R SE 775FT CLSD. DECLARED DIST: RWY 13L TORA
9225FT TODA 9225FT
ASDA 9225FT LDA 8318FT. RWY 31R TORA 8570FT TODA 8570FT ASDA 8083FT LDA
8486FT. 1702270400-1706012100
JFK 02/450 (A1441/17) JFK TWY FA CLSD 1702230400-1711172100
JFK 02/449 (A1440/17) JFK TWY F BTN RWY 04R/22L AND TWY Y CLSD
1702230400-1711172100
JFK 12/377 (A7393/16) JFK TWY NB CLSD TO SOUTHBOUND TURNS TO TWY A
1612300108-1712312359

What does it all mean?

There are NOTAM decoders out there, like http://www.drorpilot.com/English/notam.htm, that turn this mess into English:

1JFK 05/074 (A2859/17) JFK Runway 04L/22R Closed 1705081400-1705081700 JFK 05/073 (A2858/17) JFK Runway 13L/31R Closed 1705080300-1705080900 JFK 05/069 JFK Taxiway East Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R Light OUT OF SERVICE 1705070418-1706302000 JFK 05/068 JFK AIRSPACE SEE FDC 7/1330 ZBW 91.141 Very important person TFR 1705072300-1705080015 JFK 05/067 (A2852/17) JFK Taxiway A Between Taxiway F AND Taxiway G Closed 1705061851-1705091100 JFK 05/054 JFK Taxiway U Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Approach END Runway 13L NOT Lighted 1705050827-1705312359 JFK 04/306 (A2749/17) JFK Taxiway DB Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R MISSING 1704291059-1705272300 JFK 04/305 JFK Taxiway KD Holding Position SIGN WEST SIDE FOR Runway 13R/31L NOT Standard 1704291054-1705272359 JFK 04/303 (A2748/17) JFK Taxiway ZA Holding Position SIGN EAST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R MISSING 1704291043-1705272359 JFK 04/302 (A2747/17) JFK Taxiway ZA Holding Position SIGN WEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Standard 1704291036-1705272359 JFK 04/301 JFK Taxiway MD Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13R/31L NOT Lighted 1704291027-1705272300 JFK 04/220 (A2630/17) JFK Taxiway Candela Holding Position SIGN NORTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Lighted 1704220930-1705222359 JFK 04/152 (A2551/17) JFK Aerodrome Airport FRICTION MEASURING DEVICE OUT OF SERVICE 1704140900-1705201900 JFK 04/146 (A2542/17) JFK Taxiway JB Centre line Light Between Taxiway J AND Runway 13R/31L OUT OF SERVICE 1704130914-1706011600 JFK 04/145 JFK Taxiway East Holding Position SIGN SOUTHEAST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Standard 1704130407-1705201300 JFK 04/026 (A2381/17) JFK Runway 13R/31L South-east 501FT Closed. DECLARED Distance: Runway 13R Take-off run available 14010FT Take-off distance available 14010FT Accelerate-stop distance available 14010FT Landing distance available 11967FT. Runway 31L Take-off run available 13806FT Take-off distance available 13806FT Accelerate-stop distance available 13806FT Landing distance available 11248FT. 1704031808-1706012100 JFK 03/308 (A2089/17) JFK Navigation OGY Non-directional radio beacon OUT OF SERVICE 1703201737-Permanent JFK 03/055 (A1713/17) JFK Runway 04R RVRM OUT OF SERVICE 1703061315-1706012359 JFK 03/054 (A1712/17) JFK Runway 04R RVRR OUT OF SERVICE 1703061314-1706012359 JFK 03/047 (A1695/17) JFK Taxiway J Centre line Light Between Runway 04R/22L AND Runway 04L/22R OUT OF SERVICE 1703041030-1706012300 JFK 02/562 (A1592/17) JFK Runway 22L Precision approach path indicator OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359 JFK 02/561 (A1589/17) JFK Runway 22L Approach lighting system OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359 JFK 02/560 (A1588/17) JFK Runway 04R Approach lighting system OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359 JFK 02/559 (A1591/17) JFK Runway 22L Runway visual range OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359 JFK 02/557 (A1587/17) JFK Navigation ILS Runway 22L OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012300 JFK 02/556 (A1586/17) JFK Navigation ILS Runway 04R OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359 JFK 02/507 (A1520/17) JFK Taxiway H Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed 1702270400-1711172100 JFK 02/506 (A1519/17) JFK Taxiway Z Between Approach END Runway 04R AND Taxiway Y Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/505 (A1518/17) JFK Runway 04R/22L Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/504 (A1517/17) JFK Taxiway East Between Approach END Runway 22L AND Approach END Runway 22R Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/503 (A1516/17) JFK Taxiway FB Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/502 (A1515/17) JFK Taxiway J Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway JB Closed 1702270000-1706012100 JFK 02/501 (A1513/17) JFK Taxiway JA Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/500 (A1511/17) JFK Taxiway Y Between Taxiway East AND Taxiway FB Closed 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/499 (A1510/17) JFK Runway 04R/22L Work in progress Construction Lighted AND BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/498 (A1514/17) JFK Runway 13L/31R Work in progress Construction South-east END Lighted AND BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/497 (A1512/17) JFK Runway 13R/31L Work in progress Construction South-east END Lighted AND BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/496 (A1509/17) JFK Runway 13L/31R South-east 775FT Closed. DECLARED Distance: Runway 13L Take-off run available 9225FT Take-off distance available 9225FT Accelerate-stop distance available 9225FT Landing distance available 8318FT. Runway 31R Take-off run available 8570FT Take-off distance available 8570FT Accelerate-stop distance available 8083FT Landing distance available 8486FT. 1702270400-1706012100 JFK 02/450 (A1441/17) JFK Taxiway FA Closed 1702230400-1711172100 JFK 02/449 (A1440/17) JFK Taxiway F Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed 1702230400-1711172100 JFK 12/377 (A7393/16) JFK Taxiway Northbound Closed TO SOUTHBOUND TURNS TO Taxiway A 1612300108-1712312359

What Really Matters to a Pilot

We can reorganize this mess and help the pilot to pick out what is needed:

AIRSPACE

SEE FDC 7/1330 ZBW 91.141 Very important person TFR

Okay, a TFR. I need to look this one up.

Runway 04L/22R

Closed 1705081400-1705081700

The runway is closed for three hours, okay, I need to know that.

Runway 04R/22L

Runway 04R RVRM OUT OF SERVICE 1703061315-1706012359
Runway 04R RVRR OUT OF SERVICE 1703061314-1706012359
Runway 04R Approach lighting system OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359
Runway 04R ILS OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359
Runway 22L Precision approach path indicator OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359
Runway 22L Approach lighting system OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359
Runway 22L Runway visual range OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012359
Runway 22L ILS OUT OF SERVICE 1702270400-1706012300 JFK 02/556
Runway 04R/22L Closed 1702270400-1706012100
Runway 04R/22L Work in progress Construction Lighted AND BARRICADED 1702270400-1706012100

They appeared to have "buried the lead" here. The runway is closed for over three months. Good to know!

Runway 13L/31R

Closed 1705080300-1705080900
JFK Runway 13L/31R Work in progress Construction South-east END Lighted AND BARRICADED
JFK Runway 13L/31R South-east 775FT Closed. DECLARED Distance: Runway 13L Take-off run available 9225FT Take-off distance available 9225FT Accelerate-stop distance available 9225FT Landing distance available 8318FT. Runway 31R Take-off run available 8570FT Take-off distance available 8570FT Accelerate-stop distance available 8083FT Landing distance available 8486FT

The runway is closed for six hours and when it is open is will be shorter.

Runway 13R/31L

Runway 13R/31L Work in progress Construction South-east END Lighted AND BARRICADED
South-east 501FT Closed. DECLARED Distance: Runway 13R Take-off run available 14010FT Take-off distance available 14010FT Accelerate-stop distance available 14010FT Landing distance available 11967FT. Runway 31L Take-off run available 13806FT Take-off distance available 13806FT Accelerate-stop distance available 13806FT Landing distance available 11248FT

This runway isn't closed but it is shorter.

What might matter

A closed taxiway could matter, and yet it might not. These need to be sifted according to your operation and the airport. In many cases, you can have lines and lines of information all pertaining to a runway closure that makes them superfluous.

Taxiway A Between Taxiway F AND Taxiway G Closed
Taxiway H Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed
Taxiway Z Between Approach END Runway 04R AND Taxiway Y Closed
Taxiway East Between Approach END Runway 22L AND Approach END Runway 22R Closed
Taxiway FB Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed
Taxiway J Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway JB Closed
Taxiway JA Closed
Taxiway Y Between Taxiway East AND Taxiway FB Closed
Taxiway FA Closed
Taxiway F Between Runway 04R/22L AND Taxiway Y Closed
JFK Taxiway Northbound Closed TO SOUTHBOUND TURNS TO Taxiway A

What doesn't matter

If a taxiway is closed or the lights don't work or aren't standard, I suspect I'll figure that out soon enough. This airport is continuously operated so I suspect tower and ground control aren't going to let me use a closed taxiway. In short, all these NOTAMS are distracting me from what I really need to pay attention to.

Taxiways

Taxiway East Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R Light OUT OF SERVICE
Taxiway U Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Approach END Runway 13L NOT Lighted
Taxiway DB Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R MISSING
Taxiway KD Holding Position SIGN WEST SIDE FOR Runway 13R/31L NOT Standard
Taxiway ZA Holding Position SIGN EAST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R MISSING
Taxiway ZA Holding Position SIGN WEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Standard
Taxiway MD Holding Position SIGN SOUTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13R/31L NOT Lighted
Taxiway Candela Holding Position SIGN NORTHWEST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Lighted
Taxiway JB Centre line Light Between Taxiway J AND Runway 13R/31L
Taxiway East Holding Position SIGN SOUTHEAST SIDE FOR Runway 13L/31R NOT Standard
Taxiway J Centre line Light Between Runway 04R/22L AND Runway 04L/22R OUT OF SERVICE

Other airport equipment

Airport FRICTION MEASURING DEVICE OUT OF SERVICE

JFK Navigation OGY Non-directional radio beacon OUT OF SERVICE 1703201737-Permanent

What a difference a little organization makes! But why not take it one step further? Why not write it so that it conveys to the pilot the things he or she needs to know?

How to Do NOTAMS Properly

If I were the NOTAM King, here is what I would have done for KJFK on 7 May 2017:

There is a TFR in effect from May 07, 2017 2300 UTC until May 08, 2017 0015 UTC 16 nautical miles west of the Teterboro VOR from the surface up to an including 17,999 feet MSL. See FDC 7/1330 for more details.

Runway 04R/22L is closed from February 27, 2017 0400 UTC until June 1, 2017 2100 UTC.

Runway 04L/22R is closed for 3 hours, starting at May 08, 2017 1400 UTC.

Runway 13L/31R is closed for 6 hours, starting at May 8, 2017 0300 UTC.

775 feet of the south-east end of Runway 13L/31R is being worked on, reducing all associated runway distances.

501 feet of the south-east end of Runway 13R/31L is being worked on, reducing all associated runway distances.

What about all those taxiway closures, non-standard lighting, and the airport friction measuring device? The only reason those were there was so some bureaucrat could point to them if there was any kind of mishap even remotely tied to the missing sign. "See, right here! You were warned!" But there would be zero mention of the important NOTAM that was buried beneath all that other minutiae.

References

Aeronautical Information Manual

ICAO Annex 15 - Aeronautical Information Services, International Standards and Recommended Practices, Annex 15 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 15th Edition, July 2016

Notices to Airmen, Flight Magazine, January 27, 1921, p. 59

Zee, Mark, The problem of Bullshit Notams, flightservicebureau.org, 15 March 2017

Revision: 20170510
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