Last week America's airspace shut down for several hours following a technical glitch in a computer system used to send alerts to pilots. Grounding of flights was caused by a relatively obscure system called Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM), a vital air safety tool.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US agency responsible for air safety, said that its Notice to Air Missions system, or NOTAM, had failed and was not processing new information.
FAA’s website says, NOTAM communicates “information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations, but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means.”
How does Notam work?
According to FAA documents, air traffic operations started using NOTAMs in 1947. NOTAMs initially was telephone-based, with pilots calling dedicated flight service stations for the information, but have now moved online with the advent of the internet.
Until December 2021 the system was known as "Notice to Airmen", but authorities renamed it to more the more inclusive “Notice to Air Missions” to remove the gender reference and reflect the fact that Notam information is used by drone operators as well as pilots onboard aircraft.
The Notam system can be accessed via a portal on the FAA website. Notam messages are written in a jumble of abbreviations which are set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which oversees global air travel. If there is no appropriate ICAO term, “plain language” is used in the NOTAM, according to FAA.
- The Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) is a safety system separate from air traffic control warns pilots about hazards along the route.
- Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) is a vital air safety tool.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is US agency responsible for air safety
- Notam was created in 1947