Aircraft IT OPS – September / October 2020

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Aircraft IT OPS – September / October 2020 Cover

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Solutions In Practice: Bytron

Author: Rod Tinnion, AIS and QA Officer

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Rod Tinnion, AIS and QA Officer at Bytron Aviation Systems sheds light on the dark art of managing NOTAMs

The subject of NOTAM’s has always been controversial. Developed in the 1920s, they are still almost in the same format as they were one hundred years ago. Each flight can contain dozens of pieces of paper with the most critical information often buried under irrelevancies. Rod Tinnion writes from experience of making use of NOTAMs.

In my previous life as a short-haul commercial pilot, I generally flew four and sometimes as many as six sector days. Trawling through the required NOTAM paperwork to locate the relevant information was very time-consuming. Only last week I saw an operator had a flight pack (OFP) of 164 pages which included 140 pages of NOTAMs… I didn’t envy that pilot.

You don’t have to look far online to find topics relating to what I’m going to call ‘NOTAM overload’. It certainly doesn’t take long to get a real sense of feeling towards this subject when you read blog posts that refer to NOTAMs as a problem. Surely this can’t be the case when talking about information that is so intrinsic to the safety of aircrews, aircraft and passengers alike?

The situation has become a significant discussion point and people are petitioning for changes to the NOTAM system. Changes are afoot. Particularly in the last twelve months, there have been clear signs that the wider industry and regulators are taking notice and looking at ways to address the NOTAM challenge. With no quick fix on the horizon, does that mean there will be no change to the current status quo until the possible re-invention of the NOTAM? In a word – no.

Technology undoubtedly has the answer to this ongoing and ever-growing challenge. Although it may not be possible to change the current volume or layout of NOTAM updates, it certainly is possible to look at other ways to reduce the sheer quantity that appear in each crew briefing. To reduce the work involved in identifying problem NOTAMs and above all reduce the burden placed on both dispatch teams and aircrews working to deliver safe flying schedules on time every day.

A great example of how NOTAMs can embrace technology is how we do it at Bytron. The skybook NOTAM Manager uses real-time data to highlight relevant NOTAMs within briefing packages, cuts out inconsequential NOTAM information, reduces white noise and therefore saves time and effort. The importance of these notices is colour-coded, giving the user further clarity. There are even further refinements and filtration possibilities depending on the operator’s requirements.

The interim solutions are there but in terms of a long-term answer to simplifying NOTAM management… that’s a conversation for another time.

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