NOTAMs are now Notices to Air Missions

I recently discovered that the FAA term “NOTAM” (the acronym for Notice to Airmen) changed to stand for Notice to Air Missions in December of 2021. NOTAMs are useful information prior to conducting any flight; they can warn you of closed runways, firefighting activity, aerobatic activity, equipment that is out of service, and more. I always find it kind of amusing (and archaic) to be referred to as an “airman”, and it’s great to see that the FAA is catching up with the fact that not all of us are men. The first female pilot to receive a license in the U.S. was Harriet Quimby in 1911… 110 years before this change. As of 2021, there were 64,979 female U.S. pilots, of 720,605 total (9% female).

NOTAMs are useful, but regrettably cryptic in their language (e.g., “WI” means “within” and “U/S” means “unserviceable”). Recently I planned a flight with a friend to the Salem airport for lunch. Included in the NOTAMs for Salem that day was:

AD AP ARFF INDEX A NOT AVBL AND AP CLSD TO AIR CARRIER OPS

I did some googling and searching to finally figure out that this meant that certain firefighting equipment was not available, so “air carrier” operations were not permitted (but general aviation, my kind of flying, was). This was puzzling because Salem doesn’t have any air carrier (commercial) operations. Because flying to an airport that is closed is generally a bad idea (not to mention embarrassing), I called the Salem airport manager to be sure I understood the NOTAM. He confirmed that I could still fly in, and mentioned that they are required by the FAA to post this NOTAM even though they have no commercial service. In this case the (irrelevant?) warning just led to a lot of extra questions and effort – but maybe it is useful if an airline flight has an emergency and is trying to decide where to land? I dunno. It also occurred to me that even as the pilot of a small Cessna, I too might want to have firefighting capability present if I needed it… :) However, my flight was uneventful and the lunch was fun!

Now that they’ve updated NOTAM, perhaps they’ll find a way to update terminology for the pilot’s license (actually a certificate) itself. I likewise find it amusing and quaint that I hold an Airman’s certificate to fly a plane.

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I knew this already. I learned something new!