RAA 2007: RAA’s message to FAA: clean up your notams

 - April 30, 2007, 10:55 AM

RAA technical affairs vice president Dave Lotterer doesn’t object to the use of so-called electronic flight bags for navigating runways and taxiways. He just doesn’t want to see them advocated at the expense of the important work that needs doing on what he considers the cumbersome but necessary system of notams already in place.

“The FAA is quite gung ho on going forward with electronic flight bags and GPS marking for moving maps to help pilots avoid runway incursions and so forth,” said Lotterer. “I guess our message is, ‘Now wait a second, before you rush headlong into all this high-tech stuff, you’ve got a lot to do in terms of cleaning up your notam and charting processes.’”

The FAA expected by the end of April to have adopted a new policy on certifying the “own ship position” function of Class 2 flight bags’ moving map displays, which uses GPS technology to show a pilot his own position on the airport surface (see also page 72). The agency has indicated that the simplified certification process will lower the cost of certifying EFBs for surface operations to $20,000 per unit–about one-tenth the original estimates for certifying EFBs for ground and air operations.

The FAA reasons that the move will provide an incentive for the industry to produce EFBs in higher quantities, resulting in a higher level of safety for all. But Lotterer and many others without a direct financial stake in selling the devices worry that they could also breed complacency.

“If people are thinking that this is going to be so wonderful that they’re not going to have [runway incursions] in the future they’re kidding themselves,” said Lotterer. “It has its limitations as a control; you want to have the pilot looking out at the taxiway and the runways; you don’t want his head buried in some chart that isn’t that accurate even with electronic flight bags.”

As if to drive home the point, Lotterer has invited the head of the FAA’s Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) division, Barry Davis, to report on the progress the agency has made toward converting notams to a digital format at the convention’s operations and maintenance forum on May 22.

“Right now [the notam system] is not responsive to the airline business as we go about it today,” said Lotterer. “It’s difficult to coordinate; you have local notams, you have other types of notams that come from different locales; it’s up to the individual airline to go to a multitude of places to get information about that particular flight. It’s just a cumbersome process.”

Evidently, Lotterer’s message has finally gotten through to someone with clout at the FAA: the day before Davis’ scheduled appearance at the convention, the agency plans to hold a meeting in Washington dedicated to improving the notam system. Perhaps Davis, who planned to attend the meeting, will bring with him to Memphis some news of progress.