Huge number of NOTAM causes pilots to miss critical safety information – ICAO

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) says every day thousands of Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) are filed with aviation authorities to alert pilots of potential hazards along their flight routes, or in locations that could impact their flight routes. 

Ironically, said ICAO, the huge amount of NOTAM that pilots have to review is part of the reason why they miss safety-critical information.  “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. It is not uncommon for a pre-flight briefing package that supports a long-haul international flight to contain more than 100 densely printed pages of NOTAM information.

“The number of NOTAM has increased steadily by, on average, more than 100,000 annually. Due to the COVID pandemic, however, the total number of NOTAM decreased by five percent in 2020, the first decrease in over 10 years.

“Analysis has shown that of these 35,000 NOTAM that are in the system every single day, on average 7,000 are older than three months. In other words, there are about twenty percent of NOTAM appearing in pre-flight information packages for pilots that are outdated and should not be there. If we can eliminate all old NOTAM, we can significantly improve the NOTAM system and thereby enhance flight safety.”

To address this problem, ICAO said it had launched a new Global Campaign on NOTAM Improvement (NOTAM2021) on 8 April 2021. “Phase 1 of the campaign successfully kicked off with a webinar on old NOTAM. It was attended by a record-setting 1,200 participants from around the world. A complete recording of the kick-off event is available here. Organized in collaboration with ICAO’s seven regional offices, the objective is to eliminate all old NOTAM. Additional webinars are now being conducted on a bi-monthly basis to monitor progress. States, international organizations and industry representatives will be invited to share their experiences and lessons learned. All webinars are open to the public; the schedule is as follows: 16 June 2021 at 12:00 UTC, 31 Aug 2021, 28 Oct 2021 and 15 Dec 2021.

According to ICOA, Throughout the NOTAM2021 campaign, participants will be able to monitor progress by accessing the NOTAMeter, a web-based software tool for analysing NOTAM. To support the campaign’s objective, the NOTAMeter distinguishes between current NOTAM, i.e. less than three months duration, old NOTAM, i.e. those exceeding three months but less than one year, and very old NOTAM, i.e. those NOTAM exceeding one-year duration. The challenge now is to drive down the numbers of old and very old NOTAM without having the total number of NOTAM continue to raise and thereby contribute to the steady proliferation of NOTAM worldwide.

NOTAM is 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.

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