NOTAMs Due For Overhaul, Researchers Say

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The way Notices to Airmen are written is confusing to pilots, and it can be difficult to extract important safety-of-flight information from the mass of data, researchers at the University of Central Florida, in Orlando, have found (winning them our thanks ... but possibly also our, "Gee, you think so?" award). "This is critical information, yet the way it's transmitted is vintage 1960s or 1970s at best," said Florian Jentsch, research director, who is also a CFI. "As a result, it's an extremely confusing system, and it's very difficult to find what you need." The notices should be written in "plain and simple" language instead of abbreviations that can confuse even experienced pilots, the researchers found. They also said the notices should be better organized so pilots can sort the data on their own and easily find important information pertaining to their flights. Critical characteristics of NOTAMs that the researchers panned are the use of all-capital letters and abbreviations, and the lack of a system that allows pilots an efficient way find the notices by time, place or altitude to figure out which ones are relevant. Jentsch and his research team gave written surveys to 77 pilots and dispatchers, most of whom indicated they want the notices to be written in "easy-to-read, plain language." Changes would make flying safer and more efficient and would also help pilots stay out of TFRs, Jentsch said. The format of NOTAMs today is basically the same as when the messages were sent by Teletype machines 30 years ago.