Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taking Notice

ATC: Cessna 123, say your route of flight.

Cessna 123: Ah ... we're going to do a Bay Tour, fly over the Golden Gate, and then head up the coast to Little River.

ATC: Cessna 123, are you aware of the temporary flight restriction today over San Francisco Bay due to the Blue Angels practicing?

Cesslna 123: Ah ... no, we didn't know there was a TFR.

ATC: Cessna 123, suggest a heading of 330 and that you remain East of interstate 80 to remain clear of the restricted area.


I cringe whenever I hear a pilot confess on the air to ATC that they didn't know about a TFR or some other sort of Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), but I'm not surprised. I feel sorry for these confused pilots because, while it is every pilot's responsibility to become familiar with all information concerning their flight, frankly the NOTAM system in the United States is one big mess. While wading through this mess, it's easy to overlook an important NOTAM among the sea of irrelevant NOTAMs.

NOTAMs are supposed to help pilots by telling them something important is happening, when it will happen, and for how long it will be happening. NOTAMs are categorized as Local, Distant, and FDC (Flight Data Center).

Local NOTAMs generally deal with events at an airport, such as personel and equipment working near a runway, taxiway closures, or some other fact related to that airport.

Distant NOTAMs deal with outages or events that could affect arriving or departing flights, such as a navigation aid being out of service, an airport's runway being closed, or an ATC radar outage.

FDC NOTAMs cover a lot of things, mostly related to changes to published charts or procedures, such as a change to a decision height on an instrument approach, the elimination of an approach, additional equipment required for an approach, or a particular route on an airway no longer being authorized.

Unfortunately, these categories do not really make it easier for pilots to digest all the NOTAMs they might get from DUAT or DUATS briefing.

I have one, simple idea that would make this unwieldy system easier to digest: Categorize NOTAMs as IFR or VFR so than VFR pilots don't have to wade through all changes to instrument approach, arrival and departure procedures. I mean really, these amendments to instrument procedures make up more than half the NOTAMs on any given day in my area. This shoud be pretty easy to do - just filter out any NOTAM that starts with "USD" or "UAR" and that would reduce this output:
NOTAMS
USD 02/051 OAK MARINA FOUR DEPARTURE.
DEPARTURE ROUTE DESCRIPTION: LINDEN, SACRAMENTO, AND SCAGGS
ISLAND TRANSITIONS NOTE: IF UNABLE TO COMPLY WITH MINIMUM ATC
CLIMB RATE OF 610 FEET PER NM TO 11000/WOODSIDE (OSI) VORTAC
R-028/24 DME, ADVISE ATC PRIOR TO DEPARTURE.
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
SFO 03/013 SFO 1R/19L CLSD 1100-1330 DLY WEF 0703131100-0703151330
SFO 03/014 SFO 1L CLSD LDG 0600-1400 DLY WEF 0703130600-0703161400
SFO 03/015 SFO 28R LDA OTS WEF 0703142130-0703150100
SFO 03/016 SFO 10L/28R CLSD WEF 0703161100-0703161400
USD 03/107 SFO SHORLINE ONE DEPARTURE...
RWY 28L/R, FOR OBSTACLE CLEARANCE A MINIMUM OF 499 FEET PER NM TO
2100 FEET IS REQUIRED.
LINDEN TRANSITION: CLIMB VIA OAK R-040 AND LIN R-240 TO LIN VORTAC.
CROSS OAK R-040 8 DME FIX AT OR ABOVE 7000. THENCE VIA (ASSIGNED
ROUTE).
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
USD 05/025 SFO EUGEN FIVE DEPARTURE...
NOTE: RWY 1L/R, FOR OBSTACLE CLEARANCE A MINIMUM CLIMB OF 233 FEET
PER NM TO 2500 FEET IS REQUIRED
USD 06/159 SFO REBAS THREE DEPARTURENOTE...
RWY 28L/R, FOR OBSTACLE CLEARANCE A MINIMUM CLIMB
OF 449 FEET PER NM TO 2100 IS REQUIRED.
UAR 09/005 SFO YOSEM ONE ARRIVAL...
YOSEM ONE ARRIVAL AVAILABLE VIA ATC ASSIGNMENT ONLY WEF 0609281300
USD 09/182 SFO QUIET TWO DEPARTURE CHICO TRANSITION NA.
RWY 28L/R, FOR OBSTACLE CLEARANCE A MINIMUM CLIMB OF
499 FEET PER NM TO 2100 FEET IS REQUIRED.
PAO 03/001 PAO TOWER UNKN (377 AGL) 2.5 N UNLGTD (ASR UNKN)
TIL 0703281400
PAO 03/002 PAO TOWER 411 (400 AGL) 2.9 NW LGTS OTS (ASR UNKN) TIL
0703282213
CCR 02/002 CCR 19R KANAN NDB/ILS LO OTS
CCR 12/004 CCR 19R ALS PCL OTS EXC MED INTST CONT
OAK 10/062 HAF AWOS CMSN 127.275/650-728-5649
LVK 03/002 LVK 25R ILS OTS WEF 0703141800-0703142000
USD 03/015 SJC ALTAM SEVEN DEPARTURE NOTE: RWY 11, 12L/12R,
TEMPORARY CRANE 1.4 NM FROM DEPARTURE END OF RWY 12L, 26 FEET LEFT
OF CENTERLINE, 227 FEET AGL/308 FEET MSL.
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
USD 03/016 SJC SUNOL SIX DEPARTURE NOTE: RWY 11, 12L/12R, TEMPORARY
CRANE 1.4 NM FROM DEPARTURE END OF RWY 12L, 26 FEET LEFT OF
CENTERLINE, 227 FEET AGL/308 FEET MSL.
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
USD 03/017 SJC MOONY TWO DEPARTURE TAKE-OFF MINIMUMS: RWY 12L/12R
STANDARD WITH A MINIMUM CLIMB OF 290 PER NM TO 4700.
NOTE: RWY 11, 12L/12R, TEMPORARY CRANE 1.4 NM FROM DEPARTURE END OF
RWY 12L, 26 FEET LEFT OF CENTERLINE, 227 FEET AGL/308 FEET MSL.
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
USD 03/018 SJC DANVILLE TWO DEPARTURE NOTE: RWY 11, 12L/12R,
TEMPORARY CRANE 1.4 NM FROM DEPARTURE END OF RWY 12L, 26 FEET LEFT
OF CENTERLINE, 227 FEET AGL/308 FEET MSL.
ALL OTHER DATA REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
SJC 12/015 SJC 12R/30L RCLL OTS
APC 03/007 APC TOWER UNKN (200 AGL) 1.5W LGTS OTS (ASR UNKN) TIL
0703202359
APC 03/012 APC TOWER 176 (52 AGL) 1.36 ENE LGTS OTS (ASR 1240396)
TIL 0703261344
RHV 03/001 RHV TOWER 1435 (302 AGL) 7.71 SSE LGTS OTS (ASR 1055723)
TIL 0703220641
USD 01/107 VCB SOKOY ONE DEPARTURE TAKE-OFF MINIMUMS: RWY 2, 300-1
NOTE: RWY 2, TEMPORARY CRANE 3130 FEET FROM DEPARTURE END OF RWY,
189 FEET RIGHT OF CENTERLINE, 250 AGL/342 MSL. ALL OTHER DATA
REMAINS AS PUBLISHED.
RIU 03/005 F72 TOWER 1549 (1549 AGL) 4.85 SSW LGTS OTS (ASR
1012855) TIL 0703171625
OAK 03/022 2O3 FUEL UNAVBL TIL 0703161400
OAK 03/014 1C9 5/23 RWY LGTS OTS
SAC 03/013 SAC 16/34 CLSD WEF 0703131900
RIU 03/029 3O1 TOWER 391 (311 AGL) 6.55 NE LGTS OTS (ASR 1015154)
TIL 0703290916
SMF 03/013 SMF 16R ILS CAT 2/3 NA
SMF 03/014 SMF 16R ILS GP/LLZ OTS WEF 0703141400-0703141700
UAR 05/003 SMF TUDOR ONE ARRIVAL.
CHANGE ALL PLANVIEW REFERENCES TO FINAL APPROACH COURSE TO 165.74
DEGREES.
SMF 10/014 SMF 34L ILS MM DCMSND
MRY 03/002 MRY CCSA 1300-0400 DLY
MRY 03/003 MRY TWR 1300-0400 DLY
RIU 01/044 CPU CTAF NOW 123.0 VICE 122.8
MER 02/001 MER TWR 1500-0500 DLY PLUS SEE AFD
MER 02/002 MER CDSA AVBL 1500-0500 DLY
RIU 03/023 O61 TOWER 2523 (500 AGL) 6.93 ESE LGTS OTS (ASR 1011405)
TIL 0703271626
OAK 12/038 1O2 LOP NDB OTS
MYV 02/004 MYV 14 ILS GP UNUSBL CPD APCH BLW 576
MYV 03/002 MYV MARYSVILLE RCO 122.6 OTS
RIU 03/001 HNW RCO 122.1 OTS
RIU 05/017 E45 RTR 121.25 VICE 126.85
RIU 03/026 F34 TOWER 303 (162 AGL) 1.22 NNW LGTS OTS (ASR 1000095)
TIL 0703280123
GPS 03/005 ZOA GPS UNREL AND MAY BE UNAVBL WI A 320 NM RADIUS OF
NAWS CHINA LAKE/ARMITAGE AP (NID, 354116N/1174126W) AT FL400. THIS
AREA DECREASES WITH ALT TO A CIRCLE OF 267 NM RADIUS FROM NID AT
FL250, 212 NM RADIUS AT FL100, AND 191 NM RADIUS AT 4000 FT AGL.
THE IMPACT AREA ALSO EXTENDS APPROX 80 NM INTO MEXICAN AIRSPACE
TO THE SOUTHWEST, SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST OF THE CALIFORNIA BORDER FROM
APPROX FL150-FL400 WEF 0703152100-0703160001
GPS 03/015 GPS PRN 24 OTS WEF 0703151700-0703161900
GPS 08/045 GPS PRN 15 OTS WEF 0608211425

To this (for VFR pilots):

NOTAMS
SFO 03/013 SFO 1R/19L CLSD 1100-1330 DLY WEF 0703131100-0703151330
SFO 03/014 SFO 1L CLSD LDG 0600-1400 DLY WEF 0703130600-0703161400
SFO 03/016 SFO 10L/28R CLSD WEF 0703161100-0703161400
SJC 12/015 SJC 12R/30L RCLL OTS
APC 03/007 APC TOWER UNKN (200 AGL) 1.5W LGTS OTS (ASR UNKN) TIL
0703202359
APC 03/012 APC TOWER 176 (52 AGL) 1.36 ENE LGTS OTS (ASR 1240396)
TIL 0703261344
RHV 03/001 RHV TOWER 1435 (302 AGL) 7.71 SSE LGTS OTS (ASR 1055723)
TIL 0703220641
RIU 03/005 F72 TOWER 1549 (1549 AGL) 4.85 SSW LGTS OTS (ASR
1012855) TIL 0703171625
OAK 03/022 2O3 FUEL UNAVBL TIL 0703161400
OAK 03/014 1C9 5/23 RWY LGTS OTS
SAC 03/013 SAC 16/34 CLSD WEF 0703131900
RIU 03/029 3O1 TOWER 391 (311 AGL) 6.55 NE LGTS OTS (ASR 1015154)
TIL 0703290916
SMF 03/014 SMF 16R ILS GP/LLZ OTS WEF 0703141400-0703141700
MRY 03/002 MRY CCSA 1300-0400 DLY
MRY 03/003 MRY TWR 1300-0400 DLY
RIU 01/044 CPU CTAF NOW 123.0 VICE 122.8
MER 02/001 MER TWR 1500-0500 DLY PLUS SEE AFD
MER 02/002 MER CDSA AVBL 1500-0500 DLY
RIU 03/023 O61 TOWER 2523 (500 AGL) 6.93 ESE LGTS OTS (ASR 1011405)
TIL 0703271626
OAK 12/038 1O2 LOP NDB OTS
MYV 03/002 MYV MARYSVILLE RCO 122.6 OTS
RIU 03/001 HNW RCO 122.1 OTS
RIU 05/017 E45 RTR 121.25 VICE 126.85
RIU 03/026 F34 TOWER 303 (162 AGL) 1.22 NNW LGTS OTS (ASR 1000095)
TIL 0703280123
GPS 03/005 ZOA GPS UNREL AND MAY BE UNAVBL WI A 320 NM RADIUS OF
NAWS CHINA LAKE/ARMITAGE AP (NID, 354116N/1174126W) AT FL400. THIS
AREA DECREASES WITH ALT TO A CIRCLE OF 267 NM RADIUS FROM NID AT
FL250, 212 NM RADIUS AT FL100, AND 191 NM RADIUS AT 4000 FT AGL.
THE IMPACT AREA ALSO EXTENDS APPROX 80 NM INTO MEXICAN AIRSPACE
TO THE SOUTHWEST, SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST OF THE CALIFORNIA BORDER FROM
APPROX FL150-FL400 WEF 0703152100-0703160001
GPS 03/015 GPS PRN 24 OTS WEF 0703151700-0703161900
GPS 08/045 GPS PRN 15 OTS WEF 0608211425

Maybe someone is listening ... but probably not.

7 comments:

J said...

FSS can't always be relied on. I've had the unfortunate experience of departing on a flight from KGAI (Gaithersburg, MD) to KHGR (Hagerstown, MD) having received a full briefing for that route of flight from FSS 5 minutes before take off where the brief did not mention all relevant NOTAMS.

I would have been most interested in the NOTAM announcing the expansion of P-40 over Camp David to the lateral limits of R-4009.

Not a failure of a particular briefer either. My copilot had received a full briefing for that route and time the evening before and earlier that morning, about 3 hours before takeoff. Neither of those briefers mentioned the TFR, which had been in effect since two days before the flight and expired the day after.

Our first indication of the TFR was on checking in with KHGR tower, who gave an immediate vector to clear the area. Once down on the ground, I was instructed to contact Washington Center. A review of the FSS tapes reflected that yes, I had asked for a briefing, and no, I hadn't been told about the TFR and should have, so there was no pilot deviation. Nonetheless, I had to wait until the Secret Service arrived to ensure I didn't pose a threat.

-J

Jason said...

Hmm, I am listening closely.

I want to add good NOTAM info to ForeFlight but I'm just in the planning stages for how to do it right. You filters would be a step in the right direction.

Paul said...

As a new pilot I'm curious about an experience I had. I was on a VFR cross country and had just opened my flight plan with Denver Center when I heard an announcement that the Folsum Stadium TFR was now active. Is it common practice for the various flight centers to announce when a TFR goes in place and would the follow with an announcement when it is no longer in place?

I was aware of the TFR from my earlier briefing, not a factor for my route, but was suprised that it was announced.

John said...

J, that's a scary story. You hope that FSS will know what is going on, but often they don't. I like to check both DUAT for graphical TFRs and, if there's any doubt, I'll talk to a FSS briefer. Bill Cox, a columnist for "Plane and Pilot" described an incident a year or so back where he was intercepted for violating a presidential TFR. Turns out the TFR had expired, but the pres was still around and they had neglected to extend the TFR. They finally let him go after determining he was not at fault. Sheesh!

Glad to hear you might come up with a filter for NOTAMs, Jason.

Paul, I reviewed Order 7110 (ATC's operating "handbook") and didn't find any specific requirement for a controller to announce that a TFR has become active. I've heard controllers do this and I think they're providing the information as a courtesy to pilots. Don't know for sure, really.

Jim Howard said...

I'd consider filtering unlighted towers. I've seen notams for closed airports buried inside of lists of dozens of unlight 400' towers.

These days it's pretty safe to assume that the landscape is covered with unlighted towers, since it is.

Jim Howard said...

"Is it common practice for the various flight centers to announce when a TFR goes in place and would the follow with an announcement when it is no longer in place?"

Here in Texas ATC regularly announces that the P-49 expanded area is hot when the President is in Crawford.

Pat Pohler said...

Hey John, I've been reading your blog off and on since you were a Frieght Dog. I've created a website that displays all graphical notices to airmen, called NOTAMAce (http://www.notamace.com) feel free to check it out. I can plot TFRs, lasers, and even towers, basically anything with a lat/log coordinate in the notam text. The filter for IFR related notams is a great idea.