What’s in a Name?

NAFI NOTAMs #4

What’s in a Name?~Guest Blogger Paul Preidecker, NAFI Board Member

As a NAFI Board Member, I have the opportunity to work with fellow board members and staff on various projects. Recently, John Niehaus, Director of Program Development, told me about this blog. When he told me the name, NAFI NOTAMs, I expressed my exceptional displeasure for the name. Why? Because NOTAMs represents something broken…a NAVAID out of service, runway closures, and more recently, ATC closures.  My electronic logbook program even sends out a NOTAM file which lists the bugs with the software. So, why would I think this is a good name? John suggested that I look at it as a reminder of things that need to be checked before flight. That still did not help me make peace with the name….but I have been reflecting.

More than 20 years ago, I was doing some Part 135 flying out of Morey Airport (C29) just west of Madison, WI. On this particular day, one of our best customers called to ask if there was anyone who could take he and his family to Chicago – specifically, to the iconic Meigs Field on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The customer explained that he had a special day planned for his family with a ball game, some shopping on Michigan Avenue, and a dinner. A limo would meet them at the FBO. He asked that we keep the plan a secret as his family thought they were just going to Chicago for some business and lunch to follow. I told him that I would be glad to help out. We agreed on departure in an hour.

So, I went to the computer in our office, checked the weather and filed a flight plan. It was a beautiful June day. Ideal weather. Our customer and his family arrived and we departed. After the hand off from Madison to Chicago Approach, the following exchange occurred:

 

Me: “Chicago Approach, Twin Cessna 18MR, 5,000, direct KRENA.”

ORD Approach: “Cessna 18MR, do you have the NOTAMs for Meigs?”

Me: “Negative.”

ORD Approach: “Be advised the Meigs airport is closed due to the Chicago Air and Water show in progress. Say Intentions.”

Me:  After a brain numbing pause: “Standby.”

 

So, our best customer and his family are on board for a special day in Chicago…and I’m flying towards a closed airport. After a moment, I asked ORD for a frequency change. I decided to call Meigs Tower to see if I had any options. I gave them a call and asked if there would be any arrival slots opening up. To my complete relief, the tower said that a 10-minute window would be available in 15 minutes. So, I circled twice over the Lake Michigan shoreline about 30 miles north of the airport, and then proceeded to land as if nothing had happened. Just after we opened the aircraft door and collected our things on the ramp, the Blue Angels made a low pass over the airport. My passengers were excited that we landed in the middle of an air show. I was relieved – but also embarrassed.

How did this happen? Simple: I failed to access all available information concerning the flight. I did not check the NOTAMs. Why? Complacency for sure. It was a short flight on a beautiful day. What could possibly go wrong?  You know the answer to that. Luck (right place, right time) and the thought of reaching out to the Meigs Tower saved a great deal of embarrassment as well as other possible consequences. But luck is not a strategy for safe (or uneventful) flying!

So, what’s the takeaway? The NOTAM system has been criticized for years for containing too many cryptic abbreviations, and too little information that actually applies to the specific flight. I’ve often characterized the NOTAM system as the FAA version of an IQ test. But many changes have improved the system’s utility, and more changes are coming.

To my friend and colleague, yes John, NOTAMs need to be checked. It is our responsibility as PIC. I encourage all of you to stay tuned for more entries to this blog. Perhaps some of you will want to contribute, and I hope you will. We all benefit by sharing our stories.

I still do not like the name. Maybe it’s because it reminds me about that one day in June when my attention to detail was NOTAMed out of service!!

 

Paul Preidecker, NAFI Board Member, ATP/CFII/MEI
NAFI Lifetime Member #9262

 

 

 

Blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace independent, professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinions or position of the National Association of Flight. NAFI does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented. Readers should note content may appear in various media, including print, email, enews without further notice.
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Comments on "What’s in a Name?"

Comments 0-5 of 2

Brian Schiff - Monday, June 29, 2020
1005258989

For what its worth, a NOTAM is not only a notice of something inoperative, out of service or unavailable. It is a Notice to Airmen of something noteworthy and not yet published elsewhere. So I believe that works. That said, perhaps the NOTAM should be changed because the word "airmen" is being phased out? NOTOP - Notice to Pilots??

John Niehaus - Monday, June 29, 2020
1002529080

But Paul you cannot deny that the alliteration is amazing! ;)

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