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NOTAM Improvement Act reaches final passage

The NBAA voiced an opinion on the passage of the NOTAM Improvement Act of 2023, continuing to support the bill, which now heads to President Biden to sign. The bill includes NBAA-proposed amendments, like a Sept. 30, 2024 deadline for the FAA's implementation of a new Federal NOTAM System with a backup system to lessen the impact of a system outage. "This vital legislation will ensure the NOTAM system operates with the most up-to-date technology available to make it more resilient and create a safer National Airspace System (NAS) for all operators," NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said. NOTAMs provide real-time data about airports and airspace, helping to guarantee the flight is conducted safely. The system crashed in January, which revealed the faults in the outdated system. The FAA issued a nationwide ground stop after the reported outage, the first since 9/11. While the outage was found to be caused by human error and not the system malfunctioning, it brought the need for a necessary update to light. The current NOTAM system has reportedly been around for three decades, causing concern over the potential for another future outage without a serious update. There has been a NOTAM modernization program in place for over a decade with no real progress. The NBAA proposed amendments to the system, like the 2024 deadline, which have been approved in the bill. The amendment brought forth that acknowledges work done by a longstanding industry coalition to update the NOTAM and prioritize safety-centric information has also been included in the final bill.RELATED STORIES:NBAA-proposed amendments included in NOTAM improvement billCongress requests FAA task force to modernize NOTAMTime for a new NOTAM? The first nationwide ground stop since 9/11 shows room for improvement The coalition is led by NBAA Senior Director of Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure Heidi Williams and comprised of representatives from general aviation, commercial airlines, ATC and regulatory stakeholders. The coalition submitted recommendations to the FAA in 2020, which had already begun its decade-long modernization process. The FAA enforced some of the initial recommendations for the Aeronautical Information Systems Office within the FAA Air Traffic Organization as a central location for operators to address any questions about aeronautical information. The NBAA has been appreciative of the joint effort across different aviation sectors to improve the system. Bolen also notes the bill sponsors and other government representatives that have been supportive of the bill and the ongoing efforts to update NOTAMs and improve aviation safety. "We thank all those who supported this bill, including House sponsors Rep. Pete Stauber (R-8-MN) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-10-CA), as well as Senate sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Shelley Moore Caputo (R-WV)," Bolen said. Congress addressed the January outage just days after the FAA ordered the nationwide ground stop. A bill was brought to the House of Representatives on Jan. 12. This bill stated that no later than 180 days after the enactment of the Act, the FAA should establish the FAA Task Force on NOTAM improvement. The duties of the task force would include reviewing existing methods for NOTAM presentation and reviewing regulations and policies relating to NOTAMs. The task force would then evaluate the best method to organize and present flight operations to optimize pilot review and the retention of important information. The FAA has been discussing the modernization of the NOTAM system for years, with goals like aligning the NOTAM and aeronautical information systems under a single governing office, redesigning the current system with single technology gateways, and creating a unified training and outreach strategy for users. The FAA changed the NOTAM format in December 2022 to align with international standards. This change ensures that U.S. NOTAMs are compliant with ICAO standards. One of the biggest changes to NOTAMs in recent years was the name. The acronym was changed from Notice to Airmen to Notice to Air Mission and was seen as a controversial decision by many in the industry. The FAA chose to change the name to ensure it was gender-neutral and inclusive. As more women join the industry, the dated terms and nicknames for tools and technology are reflecting the diversity in aviation. The bill heads to President Biden for a final signature, supported by both the government and the aviation industry. The hopes are that updating the NOTAM system will prevent another nationwide grounding and raise U.S. aviation to a gold standard.
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