Pilot's tip of the week

Do You Have the NOTAMs?

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Subscriber question:

"Twice when approaching non-towered airports and talking to ATC, the controller asked me if I ‘had the NOTAMs.’ Both times, I asked to change frequency to call Flight Service — only to discover there were no new NOTAMs. Why will a controller ask this question?" — Arian R.

Kevin:

“ATC is responsible for ensuring pilots have NOTAMs for their destination. Many controllers would ‘check that box’ by asking if the pilot had the NOTAMs whenever the pilot was approaching a non-towered airport. They’d say it regardless of whether they knew of any actual NOTAMs. It’s easier than looking to see if there are NOTAMs to know about.

You see, many (or maybe most) controllers know nothing of how pilots get NOTAMs. They don’t realize that you may have gotten your official briefing an hour before you reached rotation speed, and have been in the air for a couple more hours since then.

What can a pilot say when asked? If you say no, it sounds like you didn’t even bother with a pre-flight briefing. If you say yes, you’re claiming that no information published since you departed escaped your notice. And no matter what you say, it’s being recorded by the ATC facility.

The FAA addressed this problem of controllers simply asking pilots if they have the NOTAMs by amending the 7110.65 in August 2019, Paragraph 4-7-12 now has a note 3 that says:

… a pilot stating, or a controller asking, if they ‘have the NOTAMS’ does not relieve the controller of the responsibility of issuing airport conditions that might restrict an approach or landing. Additionally, controller instructions to contact FSS to obtain the NOTAMs does not relieve the controller of their responsibilities …

Unfortunately, many controllers seem to have missed that memo.

So, what’s a pilot to do? Stack the deck in your favor by having ADS-B in or XM datalink so you can get NOTAM updates in flight. If it’s battery-powered, make sure the charge will hold out all the way to your destination.

And if the controller asks that NOTAM question, maybe your best answer is, ‘Just to be sure, we’d appreciate hearing any new ones issued in the past 24 hours.’ “

Do you think there's a better way to distribute NOTAMs than is currently used?

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