Aviation In Canada

Saturday, September 03, 2005


It seems fewer and fewer pilots are reading their NOTAMs lately. The most recent example, silly as it is, comes from the Rolling Stones' concert in Moncton. Yesterday, there was a tiny restricted area in effect a ful day before the concert that begins this afternoon. It's only a 1 NM radius and it's capped at 3,000 feet ASL. The problem? It's only 8 NM from the airport, just north of the departure path of runway 29, the runway normally in use during fair weather due to the prevailing winds and it's length over the other one. In an IFR world, restricted areas are effectively bigger than the advertised dimenions since ATC must apply separation from the boundaries of them. In this case, since it's located so close to an airport in a terminal environment, we have to keep aircraft 3NM from the edge (making it effectively a 4NM radius) if they're below 4,000 feet. If a pilot accepts a visual or contact approach, he is then responsible for separation from this kind of area and the 3NM need not apply.

The trouble is, only one IFR pilot destined for Moncton yesterday was even aware there was restricted airspace near the airport, and he admitted he had only the faintest notion, saying, "I read something about that. Where is it?"

I've seen a lot of evidence of pilot's being less and less likely to read NOTAMs in the past few years. NAVAID outages, runway closures, restricted airspace, military activities, and so forth are always advertised in one of the three levels of NOTAMs. There are the airport NOTAMs which this Rolling Stones thing would have been advertised, as well as NAVAID outages. Then there are the regional NOTAM files which include items not associated with an airport like a runway closure, but would include things like military exercises and their areas. Then there is the Headquarters file (HQ) which includes things like NOTAMs about regulation changes, and other nationwide issues such as those items that occured on Sept 11, 2001.

As much as load factors and flight plan routes are important, the NOTAM summary should be consulted. I'm not suggesting that every airport along the route of flight be researched, but certainly the departure point, destination and the alternate aerodrome should be on the list of priorities.