NOTAMs (as a Pressing Issue in Aviation Safety), Essay Example
Aviation is one of the industries that have taken tremendous growth in the world today as flights are increasing in number and people are flying almost every day. With this growth comes the significant improvement in safety issues which makes this industry a more reliable means of transport. Aircraft safety is meant to protect all users from the crew to the passengers. However, safety problems in the industry are always being reviewed so that solutions could be found. As much as the pilots need the knowledge and skills to fly, they also need to be aware of the safety procedures that would result in a safe travel. Among those pressing at the moment include Notice To Airmen or NOTAM. This is what pilots use to find relevant information about their flights, runways and any restrictions that might affect them.
Usually, changes take place that might affect flight plans and this is what the control group is always finding out so they can provide it to the pilots. This takes place before and during flight time for a particular plane until it has landed in its destination safely. Hence, the pilot is always in communication with various people and places right before takeoff. These notices are sent as soon as they are received as some may be urgent requiring a pilot not to land somewhere for security or for bad weather. There are a number of flights that have crashed simply because the pilot did not receive information about the poor weather.
NOTAMs are written notices that are made available to pilots as notification to any changes that they should take note of. They are sent for various purposes and include notices for aircraft operators, those sending messages concerning flight operations among others. When there are changes in runways, for instance, these are usually transmitted via the notices so pilots would know what to do. Changes in airspace restrictions are also notified this way and pilots would always know when they enter restricted areas through their systems. The other alert that pilots may get this way concerns arrival and departure time procedures that have been changed. They would know whether a flight has been cancelled or rescheduled as soon as they collect their flight briefs. This system is what makes it possible for the industry to avoid many cases of accidents that might occur due to lack of information.
Notices that are not sent on time, faulty or difficult to understand may be disastrous and that is why NOTAMs are among the most pressing issues in aviation at the moment when it comes to safety. Even a single notice missing from the system can lead to a flight accident which can kill many people. Even local flights have their own NOTAMs notifying pilots and others concerned about many issues locally affecting them. Such systems also provide local weather conditions so pilots would know when to fly and when not to. Information that pilots cannot access cockpits immediately can be obtained by making calls to the relevant calls. It is important that recorded messages that are no longer in use be deleted immediately to avoid misguiding the pilots.
NOTAMs change every day but specific notices are run for more than one day such as those to do with a construction at an airport since this is something that might take many days to complete. Many times airports have to carry out maintenance for one reason or the other and some areas need to be closed down. These may include the runways where the pilots would have to be directed to use different landing strips. Pilots have to familiarize themselves with the system if they want to find information they want faster. NOTAMs can be DOD or FAA which depends on whether information presented is military based or public. The DOD system gives notices that cover any Base Operations while the FAA system gives notices covering facilities that are operated by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This way, all the areas are covered such that flight obstructions of any kind would be communicated on time.
Relevance of NOTAM
Basically, NOTAMS give all flight information to the pilot and therefore help in flight planning. NOTAM is like a decision making tool for pilots as they can also know when to take emergency flights if there is danger ahead. Sometimes pilots have to make decisions on their own and the notices help them a lot especially when they give accurate information. It is therefore important that pilots try to find out any changes just to be sure especially if they do not know the area very well. Aircrafts can be affected with many things especially those interfering with its routes which the pilots have to find out. These include things such as parachute jumps which might collide with the plane if the pilot is not notified of their presence. Pilots also depend on navigational aids during flight time and although they have to be functional all the time, sometimes they may be out of order. The NOTAMs will notify pilots of these so they could find alternative aids to use. The notices would also include weather information as some conditions are not suitable for an aircraft taking off hence NOTAMs also help in assessing weather conditions suitable for flying. Without this, a pilot may just take off without realizing the danger he/she is in together with other people onboard.
Problems with NOTAMs
NOTAM systems have certain weaknesses which reduce their efficiency and one of them is that there is usually a lot of information in the system that it takes time trying to get the specific notices that are relevant for your situation. This also makes it difficult to identify a notice which may be urgent as all of them are sent the same way. Urgent notices that the pilots should see on time may be identified when it is too late especially if the pilot is an inexperienced one. Before the person can get used to the complexity of the system, he/she would have made a lot of blunders as a result of this. The issue here is still time as some of the notices are simply routine which the pilots are used to hence when something urgent is sent through such a system, it might not be of help if the pilot cannot identify it on time. With such a weakness, the NOTAMs themselves become a source of threat for the safety when they are supposed to be eliminating this.
The other weakness is that the code system developed in the days of teletype machines that the notices use is hard to understand (Ku, 2007). Thus, the system has been in use for such a long time and for more than three decades has remained unchanged ((Hoeflt, Jentsch & Kochan, 2004). This is surely a long time and times have changed bringing about better technology other than the teletype machines that can make the process more efficient. Good example is the computer system that has all the good attributes to make the system effective and efficient. This creates the need to have a code system that pilots would find easy to interpret. The NOTAM system needs improvement following the pilots’ criticisms since they are the ones who use it. NOTAMs generally carry safety information and it is important that such a system avoids errors as much as possible.
NOTAMs employ an elaborate procedure right from when the notice is created to the time the pilot and other users are able to interpret it. NOTAMs are also of different types which the users need to be familiar of using the codes and abbreviations. This technique increases risk of mistakes happening in the process of transmission as the message moves from one receiving point to the next. By the time it gets to the intended user, it may not convey the message that was intended and the receiver will have an own interpretation different from that of the sender. Many times the notice may not get to the controlling units in the first place, in which case the pilots may never get to see them. This is why some of the flight briefs tend to have missing information or they may only contain local briefs that may not be very important if the flight is international. Sometimes the message may get to the pilot but may be erroneous or inaccurate ((Hoeflt, Jentsch & Kochan, 2004), in which case the pilot may ignore it or go ahead and use it the way it is. Misinterpretation of the NOTAMs may also be an indication of the users not having adequate knowledge in the system. This means that either the users are to be trained properly or a better system should be designed that takes care of the current needs of users. Without adequate knowledge, pilots usually make misstates out of poor judgment which they should never have done if they had used the notices sent to them well.
There have also been concerns that not all the notices can be accessed online especially those that are local. This creates the problem of accessibility as pilots have to make calls to get the information they want. However, these calls do not necessarily give pilots all the information they may need. Online access is much faster as compared with the calling system and the pilot can get all information he wants. With its current state, it is easy to find errors with the system since things are done manually and take plenty of time. Users cannot also identify notices referring to specific geographic positions as it may not be easy to define that with the NOTAM system. The weaknesses of the NOTAM systems have to be reviewed so pilots can get something they can enjoy using. They will also be able to filter the most important information affecting them during their flights and this would go a long way into improving the safety issues in the industry. Such a system can be created and although it may take a long time for it to be fully implemented, it would be worthwhile in the long run. Factors to be taken into account for a good NOTAM system include speed of information processing, distribution method, reliability and accuracy of information
Designing a Safety Program
In designing a safety program, it is important to understand the needs of the users who are mostly the pilots. One thing is that they would need a system that is error free hence should be reliable in every aspect. Accurate information at all times is paramount as pilots need to be told of even power outages. They would also need an easy to understand code so they can assimilate the information as fast as possible especially when it is urgent. The code does not have to be of complex words or abbreviations but simple everyday terms that are easy to remember especially for the inexperienced users. It would also need to have a filtering mechanism through which the users can sort out information faster to display just what they need. One thing that makes NOTAMs fall short of their goals is that the briefings contain substantial amounts of information such that pilots have to make a decision what to read, the most important NOTAMs and their meaning ((Hoeflt, Jentsch & Kochan, 2004).
The other thing to take into consideration is for the system to have a better update mechanism and this would easily be achieved when using computer technology. With this, the system will be easy to update and pilots can have unlimited access to it. They will also get notices as soon as they are uploaded and older messages can be erased so the system does not look bombarded with information. Monitoring such a system is also manageable especially when it has a single control station. All these factors will have to be considered if the system has to be user friendly. With current systems, pilots have to ask for help every now and then from the other operators as they will take a lot of time trying to decipher meanings in their own.
To enhance safety, the system design would be in such a way that information processing system would be highly manageable. One way to do this is to centralize the information source in an organization such that what will be transmitted via the notification system will not be contradictory. The system would also have a receipt notification so that it is possible to know whether the right recipient has accessed the information sent. Information processing will also be eased through the use of uncomplicated codes that are simple to indentify. This way, the system would decrease the accidents that result from the inefficiency of NOTAM systems. Information sent can be made more decipherable if it comes with complete and clear reference for showing the date and time of the note. This is to make the latest information easy to find and will come in an automatic processing format. The system will be easy to interpret without the need of having to find help from other members of the crew just because the pilot finds that there is so much to go through before getting what he wants.
Another factor that should be considered for the design is the integration of the system such that it serves many users. To achieve this, the sorting of the system will be in such a way as to enable different users, be it the military or general aviation identify information relevant to them faster. Information will be sorted in different categories by date or time, place, altitude and what kind of users they are. It is also possible to have the information sorted out alphabetically if one wishes. The system would incorporate existing features in the old system and major changes would only be made in weakness areas that have been a great concern with many of the system’s users including planners and controllers.
An integrated system also means that NOTAMs are controlled at one location which makes it easier to make follow ups in case information needs to be verified. With this system, users can access national information and not just local or specific information. It also minimizes control and maintenance costs especially to do with so much paperwork. The main thing here is the control which will make information processed of quality and more accurate.
In making the design more effective, automation will solve a lot of problems associated with such systems. These include errors where the message sent is different from what has been received. This will also reduce inconsistencies in coding and referencing which might end up being confusing. An integrated system provides unrestricted access to the users in terms of time and place hence updated information will always be available for the users. With the automation, the goal of the designer will be to make it user friendly so that navigation through the display does not create problems especially during the initial stages. Temporary aeronautical changes will be available in various formats which include text and maps. The automated system is necessary because of the need to have high quality information in the future and to go hand in hand with the recent developments in the management of air navigation and traffic (Bosman, 2008).
The digital system would eliminate the need to have human intervention and one of the advantage it would give users is that they can access information in charts and other graphics. Thus, the system would include the relevant pictures of different areas so in case of restricted areas, the pilot can identify it quicker with a picture rather than just text. The main advantage of making the system automated is that it is still possible to comply with the required standards and format of presentation. With such a system erroneous information can be corrected within the shortest time possible. The amount of information being processed in a day for pilots is enormous and would require a much more efficient form of handling it. This is due to increase in flights and every pilot needs a pre-flight briefing for planning purposes. With a lot of information, many pages would be required for every flight briefing. For instance, the NOTAMs used by the Federal Aviation Administration currently give information concerning hazards and changes in facilities, services and procedures in aeronautical in paper format (Air Safety Week, 2009). However, an adoption of an automated system by FAA would eliminate the need for many papers.
The digital system would also eliminate the need of the users having to go for their briefs in the stations as these can be sent to them via email. This becomes convenient for the pilots as the information can be sent again immediately after it has been updated. The email system also means that users do not have to get the information in papers anymore though papers can still be used. Users can simply request information they want via email and a verification system would be used to validate data sent by the pilot identifying him/herself as one. Through the system, users can receive standard, abbreviated and outlook briefings.
Users of the system would want to find the exact information they want rather than having to sieve through a lot of information to identify what they want. The system will allow pilots, controllers, planners and other users to customize searches. This not only saves a lot of time but also makes the service reliable. The tailor made system will definitely improve efficiency handling air traffic since the production and distribution of notices. The automatic system will be more efficient in that users can customize their systems so that they will be alerted in case of new notifications that affect them. This way, the chances of pilots ignoring or not seeing urgent information are reduced. This is because the pilot would know that whatever alert he/she receives is important for the particular flight.
NOTAMs, following Annex 15 guidelines are usually required to be as brief as possible so that they are clear in their meaning and not referring to another document (Hoeflt, Jentsch & Kochan, 2004). With a custom design, this goal will be achieved easily and the kind of abbreviations used will be as ordinary as possible for easier interpretation. With the ability to customize the system too, the users will be able to describe their own ways in which they want the information they want to be displayed for faster assimilation. They can decide to have just a few details about the notice or the can have as much information as possible as long as they can understand quicker and get the message.
NOTAMs serve a central part in maintaining the safety procedures in flight procedures. It is routine for pilots to collect their briefs for their flight details but this is usually as a way if checking security details. This is an important process and usually involves a lot of people such as flight planners and controllers checking airport and weather conditions. This importance means that the process should be handled in an efficient and effective manner hence the need to always review the systems to ensure they are serving the current needs of the users. These needs are better taken care of by getting first hand information from the users on what they feel should be changed to improve the system. Pilots are the most important users and their opinion of such a system should mater most. What is important is that users get the right information, at the right time and that they are able to understand it.
Air Safety Week, (2008). Heed New International NOTAMs. Bnet. Retrieved from <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0UBT/is_39_22/ai_n30896077/>
Bosman, P. (2008). Digital NOTAM. Aeronautical Information Services-Aeronautical Information Management Study Group (AIS-AIMSG. 1st meeting. Montréal, 2 to 4 December
Hoeflt, R.M., Jentsch, F., & Kochan, J.A. (2004). Freeing NOTAMs from teletype technology. Flight Safety Digest. Retrieved from <http://flightsafety.org/fsd/fsd_apr04.pdf>
Ku, M. (2007). Comair crash reveals problems with NOTAM system: Pilots see information gap, <http://archives.californiaaviation.org/airport/msg41666.html>
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