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18 Used on Airports to require vehicles purchased under the AIP distribution. FAA Order 7930.2K Change 2 places on FSS to have reflective tape along the sides of all vehicles and to specialists the responsibility for classifying, formatting, dis- have large numbers on the sides and hood, as part of the effort seminating, and monitoring the currency of NOTAMs (32). to reduce errors associated with vehicle recognition (31). It is FSS specialists also are responsible for editing the content of best practice to make all vehicles operating on the movement all NOTAM data received from airports to conform to the and non-movement areas as highly visible as possible. NOTAM system requirements. This latter requirement was Reflective tape and vehicle identification numbering is one often a source of communication breakdown between airports such method. and the flying or airport user public. An airport, knowing the conditions and describing them, would often have them mod- ified to meet the FSS requirements, thereby not conveying AIRPORT CONDITION REPORTING PROTOCOLS the intended condition. This source of possible error is about to change. Under Section 139.339 of 14 CFR Part 139, an airport operator is required to collect and disseminate airport condition infor- As of January 28, 2008, the FAA has reclassified its system mation to air carrier operators using the NOTAM system and of identifying NOTAMs to include key words that describe other systems and procedures, as authorized by the FAA. The more clearly where and what type of activity is occurring. NOTAM system is the mechanism by which time-critical aero- This information is then made available systemwide. Prior to nautical information affecting safe operation in the aviation January 28, 2008, NOTAMs not related to a runway or nav- system is to be disseminated to those needing the information. igation aid were generally classified in the NOTAM (L) or local category. The two classifications previously affecting The advisory circular on winter operations states that airport snow removal and operations were NOTAM (D) or snow-related NOTAMs must be given in a timely manner distant, and the NOTAM (L). NOTAM (D) information is because of their critical importance for safe operations (11). disseminated for all navigational facilities that are part of the It also states that NOTAMs should adhere to the format and National Airspace System, and all public use airports, seaplane abbreviations found in AC 150/5200-28, Notices to Airmen bases, and heliports listed in the Airport/Facility Directory. (NOTAMs) for Airport Operators (13), and FAA Order 7930.2, A complete file of all NOTAM (D) information is maintained Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) (32), and FAA Order 7340.1, in a computer database at the Weather Message Switching Contractions (33). Center located in Atlanta, Georgia. Air traffic facilities and FSSs with Service A capability have access to the entire It has long been recognized that the NOTAM system has WMSC database of NOTAMs. These NOTAMs remain avail- limitations and has not responded well to the growth of the able for the duration of their validity, until published in the aviation industry and technology. In the past, a concern of Airport/Facility Directory, or are rescinded. Once published airports has been about the process by which NOTAMs are or rescinded, the NOTAM data are deleted from the system. issued in a timely manner and are further disseminated. This is especially so during the winter season where a major snow- NOTAM (L) information had included such data as taxiway storm affecting many airports results in numerous NOTAMs closures, personnel and equipment near or crossing runways, entering the system. Anecdotal reports from vehicle operators and airport lighting aids that do not affect instrument approach as part of this report investigation mention the lack of timely criteria, such as visual approach slope indicators or precision notification of airport conditions as factors. The reasons cited approach path indicators. NOTAM (L) information was dis- by the operators for delay ranged from airport operators on tributed only within the local FSS area and was not attached the field not able to get back to the office to file them, to FSS to the hourly weather reports. A pilot seeking NOTAM (L) not able to enter them in the system due to a major snow information for an airport outside the local FSS areas had to event placing high demand on the system, to a total commu- specifically request the information from the FSS that was nication breakdown by all parties involved. responsible for the airport concerned. Under the new stan- dards, airports submitting NOTAMs, including ramp and The FAA has been slowly working toward improving the taxiway snow data and other similar winter NOTAM activity, system. In April of 2007, the FAA turned over the operation are now automatically listed under the NOTAM (D) category of FSS to a private contractor. As with any changeover of the in accordance with FAA Notice N JO 7930.85 and placed in size and magnitude of FSS services, this was not without prob- the national database (34). This is a result of the FAA's adop- lems. Two of the areas negatively affected by the transition tion of the ICAO definition for an airport movement area, were the length of time it took to access a briefer specialist in which includes taxiways, ramps, aprons, and lighting. order to issue a NOTAM and the number of calls that were dropped from the system. Further changes continue to be made The change to the ICAO standard allows for immediate to the NOTAM system to make it more efficient. national dissemination and access of all airport NOTAMs, thereby increasing a user's awareness of winter operations In October 2007, the FAA started the process to consolidate, activity on an airport. The (L) classification has been removed streamline, and simplify NOTAM entry, quality assurance, and and effectively no longer exists. NOTAM information still
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19 will be required to be distributed through the FSS under exist- the FSS and receive updated reports of airport conditions. ing airport procedures. However, that is expected to change If requested by the pilot, TRACON or ARTCC can assist by in the future as well. It is anticipated that by fall of 2009, air- checking the SIA, but only if (1) time permits, (2) it doesn't port operators will be bypassing FSS and directly entering interfere with a controller's primary mission of maintaining NOTAMs electronically into the system themselves. aircraft separation, and (3) the FSS has entered the information in a timely manner. At busy TRACONs and ARTCCs, this can With rare exceptions, it is the sole responsibility of airport be difficult. Therefore, a pilot may not know about snow management to open and close runways and other surfaces removal activities on an airport or other important airfield con- on an airport. The ATCT does not have the authority or the ditions. It is also why snow crews must exercise extreme vigi- responsibility to open or close a runway, or other surface on lance when on a runway. It was noted by two airports that as an airport, unless agreed to in a LOA with the airport operator. part of their notification process, they have a direct line to the Normally, the commencement of snow removal activity TRACON or ARTCC facility data entry position desk. This requires 30-min advance notice to the FSS and the operating would be a good practice to implement at any airport. ATCT. This allows adequate time for FSS to get the informa- tion into the system, allows the ATCT to revise its automated Those individuals or agencies requiring notification of terminal information system (ATIS) and factor in arriving snow removal activities are normally listed in an airport's aircraft, and allows for aircraft operators and fixed-base oper- ACM under either the snow and ice control section or the air- ators (FBOs) to adjust their operations. port condition reporting section. Non-certificated airports are encouraged to have a similar listing. The list usually includes The primary method for notification of airport conditions the following: ARFF, FSS, ATCT, air carriers (airport oper- is the use of the NOTAM system along with other FAA- ations or central dispatch), cargo operators, FBOs, flight approved methods that are identified in an airport's ACM. schools, emergency response command centers, city/county Airports with scheduled air carrier activity must inform the offices, and the general community. air carriers, and airports with operating control towers must inform air traffic control. Non-tower airports are required to The information may be transmitted by various methods inform FSS. Airports are allowed to utilize other supplemen- including hand delivery, telephone, facsimile, e-mail, air band tal methods, if approved by the FAA. radios, ATIS, Internet, intranet, and commercial radio networks such as Aeronautical Radio, Inc. and Systems Atlanta, Inc., There is no requirement for airports to inform TRACONs which are integrated communication systems that tie users or ARTCCs of NOTAMs as those facilities should receive together with a common electronic interface. Other systems the information as a result of filing a NOTAM with FSS. The are being developed by different airports. Two airports in process of going through several channels was cited by a the survey have systems that utilize wireless devices inside the number of airports in the survey as an area for communica- operations or maintenance vehicles to communicate to the tion breakdown. A safety issue raised by more than one non- airport's intranet system. towered airport in the survey was that an aircraft made an approach or attempted an operation at their airport with neither An informational transmission procedure that sums up the the pilot, TRACON, or ARTCC aware of the activity on the process for one airport with a full-time ATCT is as follows: non-towered airport. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the tower puts all snow removal activities on a separate ATC channel whenever All ATCT, TRACONS, and ARTCC have a systems infor- possible. The procedure for closing the runway requires the mation area (SIA) screen available for accessing basic infor- Airport Duty Manager to notify the airlines and ATC that we are mation about airports. The SIA is a separate monitor off to going to close the runway at a certain time, when the time comes they will verify with ATC that the runway is closed, they will the side of a controller's position that allows a controller to then contact the Airport Personnel involved with snow removal query information about an airport, such as NOTAM infor- on company radios that the runway is closed, they will in turn mation or information from the automated weather observa- repeat the runway closure information back to the Duty Manager. tions systems or the automated surface observations systems. All personnel on the runway remain on the same company fre- quency as the Duty Manager in addition to the ATC frequency in This is of value at TRACON and ARTCC facilities where use for snow removal at the time. To reopen the runway, the Duty multiple airports, including non-tower airports, are under their Manager will inspect the runway to insure there is no FOD or vehi- jurisdiction. The extent to which the SIA is utilized varies cles on the runway and advise the Airport Control Center that the runway is open and active. The Control Center will then announce with the facility and the amount of time a controller has to on all company channels that the runway is open and active. access the information on the screen. Pilots still have the At that time the Duty Manager will open the runway with ATC. responsibility to self announce on CTAF once released by the controller some distance from the airport. Improper communication protocols have been the source of many errors affecting aviation safety. Specifically, radio com- As part of the radio communication protocol of IFR oper- munication and the communication of NOTAM information ation, a pilot making an instrument approach to an airport are causes of runway incursion errors during winter snow and may not have the opportunity to switch frequencies to contact ice operations. Proper radio communication procedures have