By Adam Dillin, Airport Planner
North Dakota Aeronautics Commission
701-328-9650 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Notices to Airmen, usually shortened to NOTAMs, are public notifications issued by airports, the FAA, and the U.S. military to inform pilots of safety or operational issues that may affect them while at airports or in flight. This topic has been exhaustively detailed in regulations and flight training publications; however, let’s discuss a comprehensive list of situations that would prompt North Dakota airport operators to ask, “Should I file a NOTAM for this?”
Closures (CLSD): Perhaps your runway needs to be closed for repainting, the frost heave has left hazardous breaks in a taxiway, or the airfield was buried in a blizzard. In these cases, a prompt closure NOTAM is crucial to keep aircraft from trying to use surfaces that may be unsafe. If a closure is preplanned, NOTAMs can be issued up to seven days in advance. Managers may find the use of Prior Permission Requests (PPRs) helpful, which allow the airfield to close for a length of time (for example, during multi-day snowstorms) but reopen temporarily for pilots who specially coordinate their arrival or departure.
Field Conditions (FICON): Many General Aviation (GA) airports print comments in FAA publications instructing pilots to call ahead during winter months to confirm field conditions. Issuing FICON NOTAMs to report the presence of snow, ice, or snowbanks can be valuable to ensure pilots know what to expect on arrival, especially if they have trouble reaching an airport representative.
Fuel Unavailable: Public fuel may become unavailable due to delayed deliveries or hardware problems. This can put an aircraft in a tough spot if they arrive only to then learn that they can’t refuel.
Obstructions (OBST): FAR Part 77 defines volumes of airspace around airports that must be kept free of obstacles to protect aircraft. If a crane is deployed near the airfield or a radio tower’s blinking lights burn out, an obstruction NOTAM is likely needed. On a related note, any tall structures proposed to be built within several miles of the airport should be officially evaluated by the FAA prior to construction to prevent impacts to air traffic.
Lighting Failures (U/S): If the airport’s beacon is jammed, the runway lighting disconnected for repairs, or the Precision Approach Path Indicators have failed, an Unserviceable NOTAM is required.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS): The use of drones has grown rapidly in recent years, with some airports seeing the use of UAS for testing, surveying, and other activities. A UAS NOTAM should be filed alerting pilots of volumes of airspace on or near the airport where drone activity is taking place.
Wildlife Hazards: It’s common to see surges in wildlife activity around airports during seasonal migrations. The issuance of a NOTAM can help prevent aircraft-wildlife strikes.
To file NOTAMs for your facility, airport staff can register with the FAA websites of eNOTAM II or NOTAM Manager. These sites can be used to easily draft and electronically submit NOTAMs for distribution. If you’re unsure about a particular issue or prefer to talk with a live operator over the phone, the sites also provide customer service lines to assist you 24/7. NOTAMs are typically distributed to pilots within minutes of being filed by the airport.
For further details and extensive examples, visit www.faa.gov and search for Advisory Circular 150/5200-28F Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) for Airport Operators and Order 7930.2S Notices to Airmen (NOTAM). These documents are updated periodically, so make sure to check for the most recent versions.