FAA moving airspace notices into the digital age

The Federal Aviation Administration is overhauling its system for flight hazards notifications.

FAA, industry to speed NextGen tech deployment

The Federal Aviation Administration is moving swiftly to consolidate and orchestrate the incoming airport and airspace data that make up Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) bulletins.

Bringing the NOTAM data and its supporting systems into the digital era is a “heavy lift,” FAA Chief Data Officer Natesh Manikoth said during a Nov. 18 FAA data optimization summit.

Abigail Smith, the FAA’s director of technical training, said NOTAMs consist of logistical data from individual airports, such as which runways are closed, as well as flight navigational data, and information related to the national airspace that pilots, air traffic control towers and airlines need to fly safely. The text-based bulletins are typically distributed via telecommunications, or through monthly print updates, according to their urgency.

NOTAMs “are part and parcel of navigation” for air traffic in the U.S., and vital for the system to operate safely, she said.

NOTAMs have been based on an 80-year-old paperwork-oriented system that made it difficult for pilots and others that use the data religiously to find and access, Smith said, but the move to bring NOTAMs into the digital world is picking up speed.

The FAA, she said, has been working with international pilot, airline industry and government groups to streamline the notices, as well as the processes that create them, into more agile, machine-readable data that can be leveraged by application developers.

Part of that effort, according to Manikoth, is to bring together the systems that produce NOTAMs; another is to get machine-readable data that can be more easily digested by other systems.

The FAA is consulting with the aeronautics and airlines industry on its path forward to further digitize the systems. It plans to sunset the Federal NOTAM System (FNS) Jan. 24, 2020. Pilots will use the FAA’s “NOTAM search” system to access the data, FAA officials said.

In June 2020, the agency said its web-based NOTAM manager user interface application will become the single technology gateway for NOTAM originators, such as airports, to enter, process and retrieve the data.

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