5.8.2 Air Traffic Organization (ATO). The ATO does not have the authority to deny sUAS operations on the basis of equipage that exceeds the part 107 requirements. Because additional equipage and technologies, such as geo-fencing, have not been certificated by the FAA, they need to be examined on a case-by-case basis in order for the FAA to determine their reliability and functionality. Additionally, requiring ATC to review equipage would place a burden on ATC and detract from other duties. Instead, a remote pilot who wishes to operate in controlled airspace because he or she can demonstrate mitigations through equipage may do so by applying for a waiver (see paragraph 5.19).
5.8.3 Recurring or Long-Term Operations. For recurring or long-term operations in a given volume of controlled airspace, prior authorization could perhaps include a letter of agreement (LOA) to identify shortfalls and establish operating procedures for sUAS. This LOA will outline the ability to integrate into the existing air traffic operation and may improve the likelihood of access to the airspace where operations are proposed. This agreement will ensure all parties involved are aware of limitations and conditions and will enable the safe flow of aircraft operations in that airspace. For short-term or short-notice operations proposed in controlled airport airspace, a LOA may not be feasible. Prior authorization is required in all cases.
5.8 Operation Near Airports; in Certain Airspace; in Prohibited or Restricted Areas; or in the Proximity of Certain Areas Designated by a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). Though many sUAS operations will occur in uncontrolled airspace, there are some that may need to operate in controlled airspace. Operations in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace, or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, are not allowed unless that person has prior authorization from air traffic control (ATC). The link to the current authorization process can be found at www.faa.gov/uas/. The sUAS remote PIC must understand airspace classifications and requirements. Failure to do so would be in violation of the part 107 regulations and may potentially have an adverse safety effect. Although sUAS will not be subject to part 91, the equipage and communications requirements outlined in part 91 were designed to provide safety and efficiency in controlled airspace. Accordingly, while sUAS operating under part 107 are not subject to part 91, as a practical matter, ATC authorization or clearance may depend on operational parameters similar to those found in part 91. The FAA has the authority to approve or deny aircraft operations based on traffic density, controller workload, communication issues, or any other type of operations that could potentially impact the safe and expeditious flow of air traffic in that airspace. Those planning sUAS operations in controlled airspace are encouraged to contact the FAA as early as possible. (For suggested references, please see paragraph 2.3.)
5.8.1 Small UA Operations Near an Airport—Notification and Permissions. Unless the flight is conducted within controlled airspace, no notification or authorization is necessary to operate at or near an airport. When operating in the vicinity of an airport, the remote PIC must be aware of all traffic patterns and approach corridors to runways and landing areas. The remote PIC must avoid operating anywhere that the presence of the sUAS may interfere with operations at the airport, such as approach corridors, taxiways, runways, or helipads. Furthermore, the remote PIC must yield right-of-way to all other aircraft, including aircraft operating on the surface of the airport.
184.108.40.206 Remote PICs are prohibited from operating their small UA in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at airports, heliports, and seaplane bases. While a small UA must always yield right-of-way to a manned aircraft, a manned aircraft may alter its flightpath, delay its landing, or take off in order to avoid an sUAS that may present a potential conflict or otherwise affect the safe outcome of the flight. For example, a UA hovering 200 feet above a runway may cause a manned aircraft holding short of the runway to delay takeoff, or a manned aircraft on the downwind leg of the pattern to delay landing. While the UA in this scenario would not pose an immediate traffic conflict to the aircraft on the downwind leg of the traffic pattern or to the aircraft intending to take off, nor would it violate the right-of-way provision of § 107.37(a), the small UA would have interfered with the operations of the traffic pattern at an airport.
220.127.116.11 In order to avoid interfering with operations in a traffic pattern, remote PICs should avoid operating in the traffic pattern or published approach corridors used by manned aircraft. When operational necessity requires the remote PIC to operate at an airport in uncontrolled airspace, the remote PIC should operate the small UA in such a way that the manned aircraft pilot does not need to alter his or her flightpath in the traffic pattern or on a published instrument approach in order to avoid a potential collision. Because remote PICs have an obligation to yield right-of-way to all other aircraft and avoid interfering in traffic pattern operations, the FAA expects that most remote PICs will avoid operating in the vicinity of airports because their aircraft generally do not require airport infrastructure, and the concentration of other aircraft increases in the vicinity of airports.
VFR in Congested Areas
A high percentage of near midair collisions occur below 8,000 feet AGL and within 30 miles of an airport. When operating VFR in these highly congested areas, whether you intend to land at an airport within the area or are just flying through, it is recommended that extra vigilance be maintained and that you monitor an appropriate control frequency. Normally the appropriate frequency is an approach control frequency. By such monitoring action you can “get the picture” of the traffic in your area. When the approach controller has radar, radar traffic advisories may be given to VFR pilots upon request.
Obstructions To Flight
a. General. Many structures exist that could significantly affect the safety of your flight when operating below 500 feet AGL, and particularly below 200 feet AGL. While 14 CFR Part 91.119 allows flight below 500 AGL when over sparsely populated areas or open water, such operations are very dangerous. At and below 200 feet AGL there are numerous power lines, antenna towers, etc., that are not marked and lighted as obstructions and; therefore, may not be seen in time to avoid a collision. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are issued on those lighted structures experiencing temporary light outages. However, some time may pass before the FAA is notified of these outages, and the NOTAM issued, thus pilot vigilance is imperative.
b. Antenna Towers. Extreme caution should be exercised when flying less than 2,000 feet AGL because of numerous skeletal structures, such as radio and television antenna towers, that exceed 1,000 feet AGL with some extending higher than 2,000 feet AGL. Most skeletal structures are supported by guy wires which are very difficult to see in good weather and can be invisible at dusk or during periods of reduced visibility. These wires can extend about 1,500 feet horizontally from a structure; therefore, all skeletal structures should be avoided horizontally by at least 2,000 feet. Additionally, new towers may not be on your current chart because the information was not received prior to the printing of the chart.
c. Overhead Wires. Overhead transmission and utility lines often span approaches to runways, natural flyways such as lakes, rivers, gorges, and canyons, and cross other landmarks pilots frequently follow such as highways, railroad tracks, etc. As with antenna towers, these high voltage/power lines or the supporting structures of these lines may not always be readily visible and the wires may be virtually impossible to see under certain conditions. In some locations, the supporting structures of overhead transmission lines are equipped with unique sequence flashing white strobe light systems to indicate that there are wires between the structures. However, many power lines do not require notice to the FAA and, therefore, are not marked and/or lighted. Many of those that do require notice do not exceed 200 feet AGL or meet the Obstruction Standard of 14 CFR Part 77 and, therefore, are not marked and/or lighted. All pilots are cautioned to remain extremely vigilant for these power lines or their supporting structures when following natural flyways or during the approach and landing phase. This is particularly important for seaplane and/or float equipped aircraft when landing on, or departing from, unfamiliar lakes or rivers.
d. Other Objects/Structures. There are other objects or structures that could adversely affect your flight such as construction cranes near an airport, newly constructed buildings, new towers, etc. Many of these structures do not meet charting requirements or may not yet be charted because of the charting cycle. Some structures do not require obstruction marking and/or lighting and some may not be marked and lighted even though the FAA recommended it.
Accident Cause Factors
a. The 10 most frequent cause factors for general aviation accidents that involve the pilot-in-command are:
1. Inadequate preflight preparation and/or planning.
2. Failure to obtain and/or maintain flying speed.
3. Failure to maintain direction control.
4. Improper level off.
5. Failure to see and avoid objects or obstructions.
6. Mismanagement of fuel.
7. Improper inflight decisions or planning.
8. Misjudgment of distance and speed.
9. Selection of unsuitable terrain.
10. Improper operation of flight controls.
b. This list remains relatively stable and points out the need for continued refresher training to establish a higher level of flight proficiency for all pilots. A part of the FAA’s continuing effort to promote increased aviation safety is the Aviation Safety Program. For information on Aviation Safety
Program activities contact your nearest Flight Standards District Office.
c. Alertness. Be alert at all times, especially when the weather is good. Most pilots pay attention to business when they are operating in full IFR weather conditions, but strangely, air collisions almost invariably have occurred under ideal weather conditions. Unlimited visibility appears to encourage a sense of security which is not at all justified. Considerable information of value may be obtained by listening to advisories being issued in the terminal area, even though controller workload may prevent a pilot from obtaining individual service.
d. Giving Way. If you think another aircraft is too close to you, give way instead of waiting for the other pilot to respect the right-of-way to which you may be entitled. It is a lot safer to pursue the right-of-way angle after you have completed your flight.
Avoid Flight Beneath Unmanned Balloons
a. The majority of unmanned free balloons currently being operated have, extending below them, either a suspension device to which the payload or instrument package is attached, or a trailing wire antenna, or both. In many instances these balloon subsystems may be invisible to the pilot until the aircraft is close to the balloon, thereby creating a potentially dangerous situation. Therefore, good judgment on the part of the pilot dictates that aircraft should remain well clear of all unmanned free balloons and flight below them should be avoided at all times.
b. Pilots are urged to report any unmanned free balloons sighted to the nearest FAA ground facility with which communication is established. Such information will assist FAA ATC facilities to identify and flight follow unmanned free balloons operating in the airspace.
Emergency Airborne Inspection of Other Aircraft
a. Providing airborne assistance to another aircraft may involve flying in very close proximity to that aircraft. Most pilots receive little, if any, formal training or instruction in this type of flying activity.
Close proximity flying without sufficient time to plan (i.e., in an emergency situation), coupled with the stress involved in a perceived emergency can be hazardous.
b. The pilot in the best position to assess the situation should take the responsibility of coordinating the airborne intercept and inspection, and take into account the unique flight characteristics and differences of the category(s) of aircraft involved.
c. Some of the safety considerations are:
1. Area, direction and speed of the intercept;
2. Aerodynamic effects (i.e., rotorcraft downwash);
3. Minimum safe separation distances;
4. Communications requirements, lost communications procedures, coordination with ATC;
5. Suitability of diverting the distressed aircraft to the nearest safe airport; and
6. Emergency actions to terminate the intercept.
d. Close proximity, inflight inspection of another aircraft is uniquely hazardous. The pilot−in− command of the aircraft experiencing the problem/emergency must not relinquish control of the situation and/or jeopardize the safety of their aircraft. The maneuver must be accomplished with minimum risk to both aircraft.
a. Precipitation static is caused by aircraft in flight coming in contact with uncharged particles. These particles can be rain, snow, fog, sleet, hail, volcanic ash, dust; any solid or liquid particles. When the aircraft strikes these neutral particles the positive element of the particle is reflected away from the aircraft and the negative particle adheres to the skin of the aircraft. In a very short period of time a substantial negative charge will develop on the skin of the aircraft. If the aircraft is not equipped with static dischargers, or has an ineffective static discharger system, when a sufficient negative voltage level is reached, the aircraft may go into “CORONA.” That is, it will discharge the static electricity from the extremities of the aircraft, such as the wing tips, horizontal stabilizer, vertical stabilizer, antenna, propeller tips, etc. This discharge of static electricity is what you will hear in your headphones and is what we call P−static.
b. A review of pilot reports often shows different symptoms with each problem that is encountered.
The following list of problems is a summary of many pilot reports from many different aircraft. Each problem was caused by P−static:
1. Complete loss of VHF communications.
2. Erroneous magnetic compass readings (30 percent in error).
3. High pitched squeal on audio.
4. Motor boat sound on audio.
5. Loss of all avionics in clouds.
6. VLF navigation system inoperative most of the time.
7. Erratic instrument readouts.
8. Weak transmissions and poor receptivity of radios.
9. “St. Elmo’s Fire” on windshield.
c. Each of these symptoms is caused by one general problem on the airframe. This problem is the inability of the accumulated charge to flow easily to the wing tips and tail of the airframe, and properly discharge to the airstream.
d. Static dischargers work on the principal of creating a relatively easy path for discharging negative charges that develop on the aircraft by using a discharger with fine metal points, carbon coated rods, or carbon wicks rather than wait until a large charge is developed and discharged off the trailing edges of the aircraft that will interfere with avionics equipment. This process offers approximately
50 decibels (dB) static noise reduction which is adequate in most cases to be below the threshold of noise that would cause interference in avionics equipment.
e. It is important to remember that precipitation static problems can only be corrected with the proper number of quality static dischargers, properly installed on a properly bonded aircraft. P−static is indeed a problem in the all weather operation of the aircraft, but there are effective ways to combat it. All possible methods of reducing the effects of P−static should be considered so as to provide the best possible performance in the flight environment.
f. A wide variety of discharger designs is available on the commercial market. The inclusion of well−designed dischargers may be expected to improve airframe noise in P−static conditions by as much as 50 dB. Essentially, the discharger provides a path by which accumulated charge may leave the airframe quietly. This is generally accomplished by providing a group of tiny corona points to permit onset of corona−current flow at a low aircraft potential. Additionally, aerodynamic design of dischargers to permit corona to occur at the lowest possible atmospheric pressure also lowers the corona threshold. In addition to permitting a low−potential discharge, the discharger will minimize the radiation of radio frequency (RF) energy which accompanies the corona discharge, in order to minimize effects of RF components at communications and navigation frequencies on avionics performance. These effects are reduced through resistive attachment of the corona point(s) to the airframe, preserving direct current connection but attenuating the higher−frequency components of the discharge.
g. Each manufacturer of static dischargers offers information concerning appropriate discharger location on specific airframes. Such locations emphasize the trailing outboard surfaces of wings and horizontal tail surfaces, plus the tip of the vertical stabilizer, where charge tends to accumulate on the airframe. Sufficient dischargers must be provided to allow for current−carrying capacity which will maintain airframe potential below the corona threshold of the trailing edges.
h. In order to achieve full performance of avionic equipment, the static discharge system will require periodic maintenance. A pilot knowledgeable of P−static causes and effects is an important element in assuring optimum performance by early recognition of these types of problems.
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (Laser) Operations and Reporting Illumination of Aircraft
a. Lasers have many applications. Of concern to users of the National Airspace System are those laser events that may affect pilots, e.g., outdoor laser light shows or demonstrations for entertainment and advertisements at special events and theme parks.
Generally, the beams from these events appear as bright blue−green in color; however, they may be red, yellow, or white. However, some laser systems produce light which is invisible to the human eye.
b. FAA regulations prohibit the disruption of aviation activity by any person on the ground or in the air. The FAA and the Food and Drug Administration (the Federal agency that has the responsibility to enforce compliance with Federal requirements for laser systems and laser light show products) are working together to ensure that operators of these devices do not pose a hazard to aircraft operators.
c. Pilots should be aware that illumination from these laser operations are able to create temporary vision impairment miles from the actual location. In addition, these operations can produce permanent eye damage. Pilots should make themselves aware of where these activities are being conducted and avoid these areas if possible.
d. Recent and increasing incidents of unauthorized illumination of aircraft by lasers, as well as the proliferation and increasing sophistication of laser devices available to the general public, dictates that the FAA, in coordination with other government agencies, take action to safeguard flights from these unauthorized illuminations.
e. Pilots should report laser illumination activity to the controlling Air Traffic Control facilities, Federal
Contract Towers or Flight Service Stations as soon as possible after the event. The following information should be included:
1. UTC Date and Time of Event.
2. Call Sign or Aircraft Registration Number.
3. Type Aircraft.
4. Nearest Major City.
6. Location of Event (Latitude/Longitude and/or Fixed Radial Distance (FRD)).
7. Brief Description of the Event and any other
f. Pilots are also encouraged to complete the Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire located on the FAA Laser Safety Initiative website at and submit electronically per the directions on the questionnaire, as soon as possible after landing.
g. When a laser event is reported to an air traffic facility, a general caution warning will be broadcasted on all appropriate frequencies every five minutes for 20 minutes and broadcasted on the ATIS for one hour following the report.
PHRASEOLOGY− UNAUTHORIZED LASER ILLUMINATION EVENT, (UTC time), (location), (altitude), (color), (direction).
EXAMPLE− “Unauthorized laser illumination event, at 0100z, 8 mile final runway 18R at 3,000 feet, green laser from the southwest.”
REFERENCE− FAA Order 7110.65, Paragraph 10−2−14, Unauthorized Laser Illumination of Aircraft
FAA Order 7210.3, Paragraph 2−1−27, Reporting Unauthorized Laser Illumination of Aircraft
h. When these activities become known to the FAA, Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are issued to inform the aviation community of the events. Pilots should consult NOTAMs or the Special Notices section of the Chart Supplement U.S. for information regarding these activities.
Avoid Flight in the Vicinity of Exhaust Plumes (Smoke Stacks and Cooling Towers)
a. Flight Hazards Exist Around Exhaust Plumes. Exhaust plumes are defined as visible or invisible emissions from power plants, industrial production facilities, or other industrial systems that release large amounts of vertically directed unstable gases (effluent). High temperature exhaust plumes can cause significant air disturbances such as turbulence and vertical shear. Other identified potential hazards include, but are not necessarily limited to: reduced visibility, oxygen depletion, engine particulate contamination, exposure to gaseous oxides, and/or icing. Results of encountering a plume may include airframe damage, aircraft upset, and/or engine damage/failure. These hazards are most critical during low altitude flight in calm and cold air, especially in and around approach and departure corridors or airport traffic areas. Whether plumes are visible or invisible, the total extent of their turbulent affect is difficult to predict. Some studies do predict that the significant turbulent effects of an exhaust plume can extend to heights of over 1,000 feet above the height of the top of the stack or cooling tower. Any effects will be more pronounced in calm stable air where the plume is very hot and the surrounding area is still and cold. Fortunately, studies also predict that any amount of crosswind will help to dissipate the effects. However, the size of the tower or stack is not a good indicator of the predicted effect the plume may produce. The major effects are related to the heat or size of the plume effluent, the ambient air temperature, and the wind speed affecting the plume. Smaller aircraft can expect to feel an effect at a higher altitude than heavier aircraft.
b. When able, a pilot should steer clear of exhaust plumes by flying on the upwind side of smokestacks or cooling towers. When a plume is visible via smoke or a condensation cloud, remain clear and realize a plume may have both visible and invisible characteristics. Exhaust stacks without visible plumes may still be in full operation, and airspace in the vicinity should be treated with caution.
As with mountain wave turbulence or clear air turbulence, an invisible plume may be encountered unexpectedly. Cooling towers, power plant stacks, exhaust fans, and other similar structures are depicted in FIG 7−5−2.
Pilots are encouraged to exercise caution when flying in the vicinity of exhaust plumes. Pilots are also encouraged to reference the Chart Supplement U.S. where amplifying notes may caution pilots and identify the location of structure(s) emitting exhaust plumes. The best available information on this phenomenon must come from pilots via the PIREP reporting procedures. All pilots encountering hazardous plume conditions are urgently requested to report time, location, and intensity (light, moderate, severe, or extreme) of the element to the FAA facility with which they are maintaining radio contact. If time and conditions permit, elements should be reported according to the standards for other PIREPs and position reports (AIM Paragraph 7−1−22, PIREPS Relating to Turbulence).
A SAFO contains important safety information and may include recommended action. SAFO content should be especially valuable to air carriers in meeting their statutory duty to provide service with the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest. Besides the specific action recommended in a SAFO, an alternative action may be as effective in addressing the safety issue named in the SAFO.
Subject: Flying in the Wire Environment
Purpose: This SAFO advises operators flying aircraft lower than 1000 ft or less to be aware of the wire hazards in their areas of operation.
Background: The helicopter community in the United States, and world wide, perform their critical operations typically at 1000 ft or less and often times in a wire/obstruction rich environment. Collisions between aircraft and manmade obstacles have occurred since the beginning of manned flight. A 13-year query of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) database indicates a total of 996 reported aviation accidents/collisions involving wires/power lines in the United States. Of the 996 accidents 301 involved at least one fatality. That averages out to 76.6 accidents annually and with fatalities in 30% of the accidents.
Discussion: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working with the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) and supports their goal to reduce worldwide helicopter accidents by 80% by 2016. One initiative of the IHST is to encourage manufacturers and operators to install wire strike protection systems on their helicopters. The FAA has partnered with Southern California Edison and Helicopter Association International (HAI) to develop a video on wire strike avoidance awareness. The video describes the risk of operating both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in the wire environment and avoidance techniques. The FAA hopes that this video will educate viewers about the risk of flying in the wire environment and prevent accidents. The video can be viewed [below or] by clicking on the following link, http://www.rotor.com/Publications/HAIVideosLibrary/SurvivingtheWiresEnvironment.aspx
Recommended Action: Pilots, directors of operations, chief pilots, training program managers, and training centers providing training in airplanes or helicopters should emphasize to pilots the inherent dangers of flying in the wire environment and ensure such information is incorporated into their pilot training program.
Contact: Questions or comments regarding the content of this SAFO should be directed to Edwin Miller, Part 135 Air Carrier Operations Branch, AFS-250, via phone at (202)-267-8166.
5.8.4 Temporary Flight Restrictions. Certain temporary flight restrictions may be imposed by way of a NOTAM. Therefore, it is necessary for the sUAS remote PIC to check for NOTAMs before each flight to determine if there are any applicable airspace restrictions.
5.8.5. Type of Airspace. It is important that sUAS remote PICs also be aware of the type of airspace in which they will be operating their small UA. Referring to the B4UFly app or a current aeronautical chart of the intended operating area will aid the sUAS remote PIC’s decisionmaking regarding operations in the NAS.
Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs)
Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs, are time-critical aeronautical information either temporary in nature or not sufficiently known in advance to permit publication on aeronautical charts or in other operational publications. The information receives immediate dissemination via the National Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) System. NOTAMs contain current notices to airmen that are considered essential to the safety of flight, as well as supplemental data affecting other operational publications. There are many different reasons that NOTAMs are issued. Following are some of those reasons:
Hazards, such as air shows, parachute jumps, kite flying, and rocket launches
Flights by important people such as heads of state
Inoperable lights on tall obstructions
Temporary erection of obstacles near airfields
Passage of flocks of birds through airspace (a NOTAM in this category is known as a BIRDTAM)
NOTAMs are available in printed form through subscription from the Superintendent of Documents or online at PilotWeb, which provides access to current NOTAM information. Local airport NOTAMs can be obtained online from various websites. Some examples are www.fltplan.com and www.aopa.org/whatsnew/notams.html. Most sites require a free registration and acceptance of terms but offer pilots updated NOTAMs and TFRs.
Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) System
a. Time-critical aeronautical information which is of either a temporary nature or not sufficiently known in advance to permit publication on aeronautical charts or in other operational publications receives immediate dissemination via the National NOTAM System.
1. NOTAM information is that aeronautical information that could affect a pilot’s decision to make a flight. It includes such information as airport or aerodrome primary runway closures, taxiways, ramps, obstructions, communications, airspace, changes in the status of navigational aids, ILSs, radar service availability, and other information essential to planned en route, terminal, or landing operations.
2. NOTAM information is transmitted using standard contractions to reduce transmission time. See TBL 5−1−2 for a listing of the most commonly used contractions. For
a complete listing, see FAA JO Order 7340.2, Contractions.
b. NOTAM information is classified into five categories. These are NOTAM (D) or distant, Flight
Data Center (FDC) NOTAMs, Pointer NOTAMs, Special Activity Airspace (SAA) NOTAMs, and
1. NOTAM (D) information is disseminated for all navigational facilities that are part of the National
Airspace System (NAS), all public use airports, seaplane bases, and heliports listed in the Chart
Supplement U.S. The complete file of all NOTAM (D) information is maintained in a computer database at the Weather Message Switching Center (WMSC), located in Atlanta, Georgia. This category of information is distributed automatically via Service A telecommunications system. Air traffic facilities, primarily FSSs, with Service A capability have access to the entire WMSC database of NOTAMs. These NOTAMs remain available via Service A for the duration of their validity or until published. Once published, the NOTAM data is deleted from the system. NOTAM (D) information includes such data as taxiway closures, personnel and equipment near or crossing runways, and airport lighting aids that do not affect instrument approach criteria, such as VASI. All NOTAM Ds must have one of the keywords listed in TBL 5−1−1 as the first part of the text after the location identifier.
2. FDC NOTAMs. On those occasions when it becomes necessary to disseminate information which is regulatory in nature, the National Flight Data Center (NFDC), in Washington, DC, will issue an FDC NOTAM. FDC NOTAMs contain such things as amendments to published IAPs and other current aeronautical charts. They are also used to advertise temporary flight restrictions caused by such things as natural disasters or large-scale public events that may generate a congestion of air traffic over a site.
1. DUATS vendors will provide FDC NOTAMs only upon site-specific requests using a location identifier.
2. NOTAM data may not always be current due to the changeable nature of national airspace system components, delays inherent in processing information, and occasional temporary outages of the U.S. NOTAM system. While en route, pilots should contact FSSs and obtain updated information for their route of flight and destination.
3. Pointer NOTAMs. NOTAMs issued by a flight service station to highlight or point out another NOTAM, such as an FDC or NOTAM (D) NOTAM. This type of NOTAM will assist users in cross−referencing important information that may not be found under an airport or NAVAID identifier.
Keywords in pointer NOTAMs must match the keywords in the NOTAM that is being pointed out.
The keyword in pointer NOTAMs related to Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) must be
4. SAA NOTAMs. These NOTAMs are issued when Special Activity Airspace will be active outside the published schedule times and when required by the published schedule. Pilots and other users are still responsible to check published schedule times for Special Activity Airspace as well as any NOTAMs for that airspace.
5. Military NOTAMs. NOTAMs pertaining to U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy navigational aids/airports that are part of the NAS.
c. Notices to Airmen Publication (NTAP). The NTAP is published by Mission Support Services, ATC Products and Publications, every 28 days. Data of a permanent nature can be published in the NTAP as an interim step between publication cycles of the Chart Supplement U.S. and aeronautical charts. The NTAP is divided into four parts:
1. Notices in part 1 are provided by ATC Products and Publications. This part contains selected FDC NOTAMs that are expected to be in effect on the effective date of the publication. This part is divided into three sections:
(a) Section 1, Airway NOTAMs, reflects airway changes that fall within an ARTCC’s airspace.
(b) Section 2, Procedural NOTAMs.
(c) Section 3, General NOTAMs, contains NOTAMs that are general in nature and not tied to a specific airport/facility (for example, flight advisories and restrictions, open duration special security instructions, and special flight rules area).
2. Part 2, provided by NFDC, contains Part 95 Revisions, Revisions to Minimum En Route IFR Altitudes and Changeover Points.
3. Part 3, International NOTAMs, is divided into two sections:
(a) Section 1, International Flight Prohibitions, Potential Hostile Situations, and Foreign Notices.
(b) Section 2, International Oceanic Airspace Notices.
4. Part 4, Graphic Notices, compiled by ATC Products and Publications from data provided by FAA service area offices and other lines of business, contains special notices and graphics pertaining to almost every aspect of aviation such as: military training areas, large scale sporting events, air show information, Special Traffic Management Programs (STMP), and airport-specific information. This part is comprised of 6 sections: General, Special Military Operations, Airport and Facility Notices, Major Sporting and Entertainment Events, Airshows, and Special Notices.
TBL 5−1−1 NOTAM Keywords
TBL 5−1−2 Contractions Commonly Found in NOTAMs
How would a remote PIC "CHECK NOTAMS" as noted in the CAUTION box regarding the unmarked balloon?
PLT037 / UA.II.B.K7 Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) System process to include calling flight service, establish a NOTAM, and advising of flight intentions.
AC 107-2 APPENDIX B. SUPPLEMENTAL OPERATIONAL INFORMATION
B.3 Sources of Weather Information for Small UA Operations. Remote PICs are encouraged to obtain weather information prior to flight from Flight Service by using the Web site.
Remote PICs can create a free account in order to use the briefing service. While Flight Service does offer a telephone-based service, it is intended for manned aircraft pilots only.
B.3.1 Aviation Weather Center (AWC). This free, web-based service does not require registration and offers all of the weather products important to a remote PIC, such as Aviation Routine Weather Reports (METAR) and Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF). While reviewing the weather for your intended operation, it is also critical that the remote PIC review any temporary flight restrictions (TFR) at the FAA’s TFR website.
In aviation, weather service is a combined effort of the National Weather Service (NWS), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Defense (DOD), other aviation groups, and individuals. Because of the increasing need for worldwide weather services, foreign weather organizations also provide vital input. While weather forecasts are not 100 percent accurate, meteorologists, through careful scientific study and computer modeling, have the ability to predict weather patterns, trends, and characteristics with increasing accuracy. Through a complex system of weather services, government agencies, and independent weather observers, pilots and other aviation professionals receive the benefit of this vast knowledge base in the form of up-to-date weather reports and forecasts. These reports and forecasts enable pilots to make informed decisions regarding weather and flight safety before and during a flight.
Aviation weather reports are designed to give accurate depictions of current weather conditions. Each report provides current information that is updated at different times. Some typical reports are METARs and PIREPs. To view a weather report, go to http://www.aviationweather.gov/.
Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR): A METAR is an observation of current surface weather reported in a standard international format. While the METAR code has been adopted worldwide, each country is allowed to make modifications to the code. Normally, these differences are minor but necessary to accommodate local procedures or particular units of measure. This discussion of METAR will cover elements used in the United States.
Metars are issued hourly unless significant weather changes have occurred. A special METAR (SPECI) can be issued at any interval between routine METAR reports.
METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR
A typical METAR report contains the following information in sequential order:
1. Type of report—there are two types of METAR reports. The first is the routine METAR report that is transmitted every hour. The second is the aviation selected SPECI. This is a special report that can be given at any time to update the METAR for rapidly changing weather conditions, aircraft mishaps, or other critical information.
2. Station identifier—a four-letter code as established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In the 48 contiguous states, a unique three-letter identifier is preceded by the letter “K.” For example, Gregg County Airport in Longview, Texas, is identified by the letters “KGGG,” K being the country designation and GGG being the airport identifier. In other regions of the world, including Alaska and Hawaii, the first two letters of the four-letter ICAO identifier indicate the region, country, or state. Alaska identifiers always begin with the letters “PA” and Hawaii identifiers always begin with the letters “PH.” A list of station identifiers can be found at an FSS or NWS office.
3. Date and time of report—depicted in a six-digit group (161753Z). The first two digits are the date. The last four digits are the time of the METAR, which is always given in coordinated universal time (UTC). A “Z” is appended to the end of the time to denote the time is given in Zulu time (UTC) as opposed to local time.
4. Modifier—denotes that the METAR came from an automated source or that the report was corrected. If the notation “AUTO” is listed in the METAR, the report came from an automated source. It also lists “AO1” or “AO2” in the remarks section to indicate the type of precipitation sensors employed at the automated station. When the modifier “COR” is used, it identifies a corrected report sent out to replace an earlier report that contained an error (for example: METAR KGGG 161753Z COR).
5. Wind—reported with five digits (14021) unless the speed is greater than 99 knots, in which case the wind is reported with six digits. The first three digits indicate the direction the true wind is blowing in tens of degrees. If the wind is variable, it is reported as “VRB.” The last two digits indicate the speed of the wind in knots unless the wind is greater than 99 knots, in which case it is indicated by three digits. If the winds are gusting, the letter “G” follows the wind speed (G26). After the letter “G,” the peak gust recorded is provided. If the wind varies more than 60° and the wind speed is greater than six knots, a separate group of numbers, separated by a “V,” will indicate the extremes of the wind directions. Figure 12-7 shows how the TDWR/Weather System Processor (WSP) determines the true wind, as well as gust front/wind shear location.
6. Visibility—the prevailing visibility (. SM) is reported in statute miles as denoted by the letters “SM.” It is reported in both miles and fractions of miles. At times, runway visual range (RVR) is reported following the prevailing visibility. RVR is the distance a pilot can see down the runway in a moving aircraft. When RVR is reported, it is shown with an R, then the runway number followed by a slant, then the visual range in feet. For example, when the RVR is reported as R17L/1400FT, it translates to a visual range of 1,400 feet on runway 17 left.
7. Weather—can be broken down into two different categories: qualifiers and weather phenomenon (+TSRA BR). First, the qualifiers of intensity, proximity, and the descriptor of the weather will be given. The intensity may be light (-), moderate ( ), or heavy (+). Proximity only depicts weather phenomena that are in the airport vicinity. The notation “VC” indicates a specific weather phenomenon is in the vicinity of five to ten miles from the airport. Descriptors are used to describe certain types of precipitation and obscurations. Weather phenomena may be reported as being precipitation, obscurations, and other phenomena such as squalls or funnel clouds. Descriptions of weather phenomena as they begin or end, and hailstone size are also listed in the remarks sections of the report. [Figure 12-8]
8. Sky condition—always reported in the sequence of amount, height, and type or indefinite ceiling/height (vertical visibility) (BKN008 OVC012CB). The heights of the cloud bases are reported with a three-digit number in hundreds of feet AGL. Clouds above 12,000 feet are not detected or reported by an automated station. The types of clouds, specifically towering cumulus (TCU) or cumulonimbus (CB) clouds, are reported with their height. Contractions are used to describe the amount of cloud coverage and obscuring phenomena. The amount of sky coverage is reported in eighths of the sky from horizon to horizon. [Figure 12-9]
9. Temperature and dew point—the air temperature and dew point are always given in degrees Celsius (C) or (°C 18/17). Temperatures below 0 °C are preceded by the letter “M” to indicate minus.
10. Altimeter setting—reported as inches of mercury ("Hg) in a four-digit number group (A2970). It is always preceded by the letter “A.” Rising or falling pressure may also be denoted in the remarks sections as “PRESRR” or “PRESFR” respectively.
11. Zulu time—a term used in aviation for UTC which places the entire world on one time standard.
12. Remarks—the remarks section always begins with the letters “RMK.” Comments may or may not appear in this section of the METAR. The information contained in this section may include wind data, variable visibility, beginning and ending times of particular phenomenon, pressure information, and various other information deemed necessary. An example of a remark regarding weather phenomenon that does not fit in any other category would be: OCNL LTGICCG. This translates as occasional lightning in the clouds and from cloud to ground. Automated stations also use the remarks section to indicate the equipment needs maintenance.
METAR KGGG 161753Z AUTO 14021G26 3/4SM +TSRA BR BKN008 OVC012CB 18/17 A2970 RMK PRESFR
Routine METAR for Gregg County Airport for the 16th day of the month at 1753Z automated source. Winds are 140 at 21 knots gusting to 26. Visibility is . statute mile. Thunderstorms with heavy rain and mist. Ceiling is broken at 800 feet, overcast at 1,200 feet with cumulonimbus clouds. Temperature 18 °C and dew point 17 °C. Barometric pressure is 29.70 "Hg and falling rapidly.
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The wind direction and velocity at KJFK is from
PLT059 / UA.III.A.K2 Aviation routine weather reports (METAR).
What are the current conditions for Chicago Midway Airport (KMDW)?
PLT059 / UA.III.A.K2 Aviation routine weather reports (METAR).
Observed weather condition reports are often used in the creation of forecasts for the same area. A variety of different forecast products are produced and designed to be used in the preflight planning stage. The printed forecasts that pilots need to be familiar with are the terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF), aviation area forecast (FA), inflight weather advisories (Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMET), Airman’s Meteorological Information (AIRMET)), and the winds and temperatures aloft forecast (FB).
Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF): A TAF is a report established for the five statute mile radius around an airport. TAF reports are usually given for larger airports. Each TAF is valid for a 24 or 30-hour time period, and is updated four times a day at 0000Z, 0600Z, 1200Z, and 1800Z. The TAF utilizes the same descriptors and abbreviations as used in the METAR report. The TAF includes the following information in sequential order:
1. Type of report—a TAF can be either a routine forecast (TAF) or an amended forecast (TAF AMD).
2. ICAO station identifier—the station identifier is the same as that used in a METAR.
3. Date and time of origin—time and date (081125Z) of TAF origination is given in the six-
number code with the first two being the date, the last four being the time. Time is always
given in UTC as denoted by the Z following the time block.
4. Valid period dates and times—The TAF valid period (0812/0912) follows the date/time of
forecast origin group. Scheduled 24 and 30 hour TAFs are issued four times per day, at 0000, 0600, 1200, and 1800Z. The first two digits (08) are the day of the month for the start of the TAF. The next two digits (12) are the starting hour (UTC). 09 is the day of the month for the end of the TAF, and the last two digits (12) are the ending hour (UTC) of the valid period. A forecast period that begins at midnight UTC is annotated as 00. If the end time of a valid period is at midnight UTC, it is annotated as 24. For example, a 00Z TAF issued on the 9th of the month and valid for 24 hours would have a valid period of 0900/0924.
5. Forecast wind—the wind direction and speed forecast are coded in a five-digit number group.
An example would be 15011KT. The first three digits indicate the direction of the wind in reference to true north. The last two digits state the wind speed in knots appended with “KT.” Like the METAR, winds greater than 99 knots are given in three digits.
6. Forecast visibility—given in statute miles and may be in whole numbers or fractions. If the forecast is greater than six miles, it is coded as “P6SM.”
7. Forecast significant weather—weather phenomena are coded in the TAF reports in the same format as the METAR.
8. Forecast sky condition—given in the same format as the METAR. Only CB clouds are forecast in this portion of the TAF report as opposed to CBs and towering cumulus in the METAR.
9. Forecast change group—for any significant weather change forecast to occur during the TAF
time period, the expected conditions and time period are included in this group. This information may be shown as from (FM), and temporary (TEMPO). “FM” is used when a rapid and significant change, usually within an hour, is expected. “TEMPO” is used for temporary fluctuations of weather, expected to last less than 1 hour.
10. PROB30—a given percentage that describes the probability of thunderstorms and precipitation occurring in the coming hours. This forecast is not used for the first 6 hours of the 24-hour forecast.
TAF KPIR 111130Z 111212 15012KT P6SM BKN090 TEMPO 1214 5SM BR FM1500 16015G25KT P6SM SCT040 BKN250 FM0000 14012KT P6SM BKN080 OVC150 PROB40 0004 3SM TSRA BKN030CB FM0400 1408KT P6SM SCT040 OVC080 TEMPO 0408 3SM TSRA OVC030CB
BECMG 0810 32007KT=
Routine TAF for Pierre, South Dakota on the 11th day of the month, at 1130Z, valid for 24 hours from 1200Z on the 11th to 1200Z on the 12th wind from 150 ° at 12 knots visibility greater than 6SM broken clouds at 9, 000 feet…temporarily, between 1200Z and 1400Z, visibility 5 sm in mist…from 1500Z winds from 160° at 15 knots, gusting to 25 knots visibility greater than 6 sm…clouds scattered at 4,000 feet and broken at 25,000 feet…from 0000Z wind from 140° at 12 knots…visibility greater than 6 sm…clouds broken at 8,000 feet, overcast at 15,000 feet…between 0000Z and 0400Z, there is 40 percent probability of visibility 3 sm…thunderstorm with moderate rain showers…clouds broken at 3,000 feet with cumulonimbus clouds…from 0400Z…winds from 140° at 8 knots…visibility greater than 6 miles…clouds at 4,000 scattered and overcast at 8,000…temporarily between 0400Z and 0800Z…visibility 3 miles…thunderstorms with moderate rain showers…clouds overcast at 3,000 feet with cumulonimbus clouds…becoming between 0800Z and 1000Z…wind from 320° at 7 knots…end of report (=).
Convective Significant Meteorological Information (WST)
Convective SIGMETs are issued for severe thunderstorms with surface winds greater than 50 knots, hail at the surface greater than or equal to 3⁄4 inch in diameter, or tornadoes. They are also issued to advise pilots of embedded thunderstorms, lines of thunderstorms, or thunderstorms with heavy or greater precipitation that affect 40 percent or more of a 3,000 square mile or greater region. A remote pilot will find these weather alerts helpful for flight planning.
Weather charts are graphic charts that depict current or forecast weather. They provide an overall picture of the United States and should be used in the beginning stages of flight planning. Typically, weather charts show the movement of major weather systems and fronts. Surface analysis, weather depiction, and radar summary charts are sources of current weather information. Significant weather prognostic charts provide an overall forecast weather picture.
Surface Analysis Chart
The surface analysis chart depicts an analysis of the current surface weather. [Figure 12-14] This chart is a computer prepared report that is transmitted every 3 hours and covers the contiguous 48 states and adjacent areas. A surface analysis chart shows the areas of high and low pressure, fronts, temperatures, dew points, wind directions and speeds, local weather, and visual obstructions.
Surface weather observations for reporting points across the United States are also depicted on this chart. Each of these reporting points is illustrated by a station model. [Figure 12-15] A station model includes:
• Type of observation—a round model indicates an official weather observer made the observation. A square model indicates the observation is from an automated station. Stations located offshore give data from ships, buoys, or offshore platforms.
• Sky cover—the station model depicts total sky cover and is shown as clear, scattered, broken, overcast, or obscured/partially obscured.
• Clouds—represented by specific symbols. Low cloud symbols are placed beneath the station model, while middle and high cloud symbols are placed directly above the station model. Typically, only one type of cloud will be depicted with the station model.
• Sea level pressure—given in three digits to the nearest tenth of a millibar (mb). For 1,000 mbs or greater, prefix a 10 to the three digits. For less than 1,000 mbs, prefix a 9 to the three digits.
• Pressure change/tendency—pressure change in tenths of mb over the past 3 hours. This is depicted directly below the sea level pressure.
• Precipitation—a record of the precipitation that has fallen over the last 6 hours to the nearest hundredth of an inch.
• Dew point—given in degrees Fahrenheit.
• Present weather—over 100 different weather symbols are used to describe the current weather.
• Temperature—given in degrees Fahrenheit.
• Wind—true direction of wind is given by the wind pointer line, indicating the direction from which the wind is coming. A short barb is equal to 5 knots of wind, a long barb is equal to 10 knots of wind, and a pennant is equal to 50 knots.
Weather Depiction Chart
A weather depiction chart details surface conditions as derived from METAR and other surface observations. The weather depiction chart is prepared and transmitted by computer every 3 hours beginning at 0100Z time, and is valid at the time of the plotted data. It is designed to be used for flight planning by giving an overall picture of the weather across the United States. [Figure 12-16]
This type of chart typically displays major fronts or areas of high and low pressure. The weather depiction chart also provides a graphic display of IFR, VFR, and MVFR (marginal VFR) weather. Areas of IFR conditions (ceilings less than 1,000 feet and visibility less than three miles) are shown by a hatched area outlined by a smooth line. MVFR regions (ceilings 1,000 to 3,000 feet, visibility 3 to 5 miles) are shown by a nonhatched area outlined by a smooth line. Areas of VFR (no ceiling or ceiling greater than 3,000 feet and visibility greater than five miles) are not outlined.
Weather depiction charts show a modified station model that provides sky conditions in the form of total sky cover, cloud height or ceiling, weather, and obstructions to visibility, but does not include winds or pressure readings like the surface analysis chart. A bracket ( ] ) symbol to the right of the station indicates the observation was made by an automated station. A detailed explanation of a station model is depicted in the previous discussion of surface analysis charts.
Radar Summary Chart
A radar summary chart is a graphically depicted collection of radar weather reports (SDs). [Figure 12-17] The chart is published hourly at 35 minutes past the hour. It displays areas of precipitation, as well as information regarding the characteristics of the precipitation. [Figure 12-18] A radar summary chart includes:
- No information—if information is not reported, the chart will say “NA.” If no echoes are detected, the chart will say “NE.”
- Precipitation intensity contours—intensity can be described as one of six levels and is shown on the chart by three contour intervals.
- Height of tops—the heights of the echo tops are given in hundreds of feet MSL.
- Movement of cells—individual cell movement is indicated by an arrow pointing in the direction of movement. The speed of movement in knots is the number at the top of the arrow head. “LM” indicates little movement.
- Type of precipitation—the type of precipitation is marked on the chart using specific symbols. These symbols are not the same as used on the METAR charts.
- Echo configuration—echoes are shown as being areas, cells, or lines.
- Weather watches—severe weather watch areas for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are depicted by boxes outlined with heavy dashed lines.
The radar summary chart is a valuable tool for preflight planning. It does, however, contain several limitations for the usage of the chart. This chart depicts only areas of precipitation. It will not show areas of clouds and fog with no appreciable precipitation, or the height of the tops and bases of the clouds. Radar summary charts are a depiction of current precipitation and should be used in conjunction with current METAR and weather forecasts.
Significant Weather Prognostic Charts
Significant weather prognostic charts are available for low-level significant weather from the surface to FL 240 (24,000 feet), also referred to as the 400 mb level, and high-level significant weather from FL 250 to FL 600 (25,000 to 60,000 feet). The primary concern of this discussion is the low-level significant weather prognostic chart.
The low-level chart comes in two forms: the 12– and 24–hour forecast chart, and the 36- and 48-hour surface forecast chart. The first chart is a four-panel chart that includes 12– and 24–hour forecasts for significant weather and surface weather. Charts are issued four times a day at 0000Z, 0600Z, 1200Z, and 1800Z. The valid time for the chart is printed on the lower left corner of each panel.
The upper two panels show forecast significant weather, which may include nonconvective turbulence, freezing levels, and IFR or MVFR weather. Areas of moderate or greater turbulence are enclosed in dashed lines. Numbers within these areas give the height of the turbulence in hundreds of feet MSL. Figures below the line show the anticipated base, while figures above the line show the top of the zone of turbulence. Also shown on this panel are areas of VFR, IFR, and MVFR. IFR areas are enclosed by solid lines, MVFR areas are enclosed by scalloped lines, and the remaining, unenclosed area is designated VFR. Zigzag lines and the letters “SFC” indicate freezing levels in that area are at the surface. Freezing level height contours for the highest freezing level are drawn at 4,000-foot intervals with dashed lines.
The lower two panels show the forecast surface weather and depicts the forecast locations and characteristics of pressure systems, fronts, and precipitation. Standard symbols are used to show fronts and pressure centers. Direction of movement of the pressure center is depicted by an arrow. The speed in knots is shown next to the arrow. In addition, areas of forecast precipitation and thunderstorms are outlined. Areas of precipitation that are shaded indicate at least one-half of the area is being affected by the precipitation. Unique symbols indicate the type of precipitation and the manner in which it occurs.
Figure 12-19 depicts a typical significant weather prognostic chart as well as the symbols typically used to depict precipitation. Prognostic charts are an excellent source of information for preflight planning; however, this chart should be viewed in light of current conditions and specific local area forecasts.
The 36- and 48-hour significant weather prognostic chart is an extension of the 12- and 24-hour forecast. It provides information regarding surface weather forecasts and includes a discussion of the forecast. This chart is issued twice a day. It typically contains forecast positions and characteristics of pressure patterns, fronts, and precipitation. An example of a 36- and 48-hour surface prognostic chart is shown in Figure 12-20.
Sarah Nilsson, J.D., Ph.D., MAS
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