NOTAMs: “What if, instead, the Authorities had simply written what they meant?”

Routes of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Singapore Airlines Flight 351, including airspace restrictions


Mark Zee’s statement above is sticking in my mind as I prepare for the IFR add on to my CFI.  Mainly because I see it leaking into how we learn.

Archaic CFII and IFR prep questions remind me that much aviation is more about a right of passage than learning.

Becoming a rockstar at decoding weather outputs should make you wonder.  And on a more crazy note, let’s look at the rafts of NOTAMs we’re all asked to process – before each flight.  Then consider that a NOTAM’s obvious urgency could have saved Malaysia MH17.

What if the crew knew what the NOTAM meant, that would have saved their lives?


We don’t use computers like this anymore, so why pretend?

The title of this post is a statement made by Mark Zee in his piece here.  In it he takes aim at our encoded NOTAM and weather world, old school teaching remnants, etc.,  and wishes to impart that much of it has little to do with the rapid transformation of how we now process information.  [Especially in our single pilot, professionally flown world, where every ounce of friendly automation is used and adored, though hopefully not taken for granted or as a welcome matt for complacency.]

So as I plod through the IFR test prep, I’m reminded how, as pilots, we need to be active in guiding our friends at the FAA to make the training standards relevant to what is happening. That could be the best principle to make us competent for tomorrow.

The article references a tragic accident, that was avoidable if you follow the premise of communicating and clearly / verbosely is good. (Now that we have the screen, bandwidth and memory to spare.)  We no longer live in an age of limited CPU, bandwidth, RAM or ROM.  Yet why does an entire industry act so?

So… until I pass my CFII written and ride (and probably after) … I’ll be noodling this dilemma and welcome any thoughts on how to prod our friends in OK City, Congress or otherwise to effect this change.

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