If one thing was clear from the Notam Summit in Washington, it was that the focus of ‘Fixing Notams’ has to be on the quality of the source data.
In a futuristic (not too distant, we hope) vision of Notams, that data is a beautifully structured digital dataset of fixed objects (like airports, runways, airspace), and dynamic objects (availability, status, times), available as a REST API. That’s the back end. And that allows for a great front end to be built.
But what about the dataset we have right now? Notams live on the AFTN, and the ICAO Format is the standard template. How can we measure the quality of Notams, to see how we are tracking according to the current rules? Well, we build a Notameter, that’s how.
ICAO and OPSGROUP got together to build this app, which looks at all current Notams (35,000 or so), and checks each one for quality according to the rules below – providing a quantitative method to create a ‘Notam Quality’ score for each country.
This is a mixture of hard rules and soft rules. Hard rules are clearly specified in Annex 15, and the OPADD (like Length, Q code, Duration), and we’ve added some soft rules (like Trigger and Activity Notams) to help measure the usefulness and quality.
10 important things
1. Format Is the NOTAM in ICAO Format?
2. Permanence Is the NOTAM non-permanent? Permanent Notams are notam-non-grata, they are against the rules.
3. Length Is the NOTAM less than 1200 characters?
4. Q code Does a Q-Code exist?
5. XXXXX Is the Q-Code not unspecified? In other words, if the Q-code is just “XXXXX” that means that there isn’t one.
6. AIRAC cycle Notams Is the NOTAM not about an AIRAC miss? This one isn’t a defined rule, but one of the problems with the system is that it’s jammed up with junk. The less of these, the better.
7. Trigger NOTAMS. Is the NOTAM not a Trigger NOTAM?
8. Activity NOTAMS. Is the NOTAM unrelated to purely advising on some activity taking place (drone, balloon, fireworks …)?
9. Duration Is the duration of the NOTAM less than 90 days?
10. Jargon Is the NOTAM purged of jargon words that are not recommended?
Good Notams and Bad Notams
For the purposes of the Notameter, a ‘Good Notam’ is one that passes all the tests above. For a given country, the number of Notams which pass all the tests is shown as a percentage of total current Notams issued.
For a given country, you can drill down into the scores to see how many Notams pass each test:
We use the ICAO Notam API as the source.
Test it out!
It’s a beta
Ultimately, we know there is a problem with the Notam System in its current format. The Notameter is just one way to look at the problem, and get a glimpse of what could be better. Consider this as version 0.5 – what else would you add as a quality test? We’d like to hear from the developer and user community, to see if there are other metrics that could be useful. Comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As pilots are ‘human’, it is almost impossible to expect every Notam is both read and understood! My suggestion to help with this is to encourage filtering tools freely available to all pilots and operators. An example currently is using WSI (Airports).
My Best, Frank