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FAA Streamlines Procedure for Tower Light Outage NOTAMs

In time for all the tower work likely to result from anticipated channel repacking, the FAA has streamlined its rules for reporting tower light outages and generating NOTAMs (NOtices To AirMen). Under the current system, tower owners have to notify the FAA of outages by completing a web-based form maintained by the FAA's U.S. NOTAM Office. Currently, submissions automatically expire after 15 days. When tower work takes longer than that, the old NOTAM has to be canceled and a new NOTAM generated. This also creates additional burdens for the FAA and FCC staff who process and monitor the submissions.

Such red tape means that “the proliferation of electronic submissions could hamper aviation efficiency and, at extreme levels, raise concerns for aviation safety,” the FCC stated in a public notice (DA-14-1781), released last week. The commission notes that the FAA's U.S. NOTAM office intends to revise its web-based NOTAM submission system to enable tower owners to self-select the amount of time they will need to repair a faulty light. The Bureau expects the improvement to take effect by mid-January 2015.

The FCC cautions, “While the change will allow tower owners to self-select the repair deadline, every outage should be corrected as soon as possible, and the FCC and FAA will respond aggressively if they discover tower owners are abusing a system designed to protect aviation safety. FCC staff will continue to monitor the NOTAM referrals they receive from the FAA. Among other things, FCC staff may investigate cases where a tower owner selects an unusually long time period to make a repair, where multiple NOTAMs appear to have been submitted for a single tower within a relatively short period of time, where a tower owner repeatedly fails to cancel NOTAMs after repairs are complete, or where other circumstances suggest a need for closer scrutiny.”

The FCC says that this change to the NOTAM process “reflects the FCC's commitment, shared with its Federal Agency partners, to update and rationalize the processes that FCC licensees must follow, particularly in the area of wireless infrastructure. Wherever possible and appropriate, the Commission is eliminating/reforming outdated requirements and processes.”