Confused About NOTAMs? FAA Notices to Airmen, Explained

Flight Air Traffic Control Tower, Put-in-Bay Airport (3W2), South Bass Island, Ohio, USA
••• Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

I have a confession: I'm still trying to figure out NOTAMs. The FAA is always changing them, and it's hard to stay on top of the different types! 

I don't think I'm the only one. Depending on who you talk to (or which website you rely upon) there are sometimes two types of NOTAMs, or three types, or five types, or 10. How many are there, really? 

During my flight training, I was taught that there were three types of NOTAMs: NOTAM(D), NOTAM(L) and FDC NOTAMs. So as a flight instructor, I was teaching these three types of NOTAMs. And now there are two types, now that NOTAM(L) isn't used anymore. But I was doing some research recently and I came across the FAA website on types of NOTAMs. To my surprise, I learned that there are more NOTAM classifications than I was ever aware of. (And I never knew the difference between Class I and Class II NOTAMs.

Do you?)

In the end, it's good-to-know information that could be helpful during flight planning.

My research led me to another place, which was an easy way to explain true north and magnetic north. (Does anyone really know what true north is? Is it a location? A direction? A white snowy area?) It's hard to explain at the very basic level, and then we get into the Earth's rotation and math formulas and that's where my knowledge ends.

Many times, we get lazy in our understanding of certain topics. When it comes to literal meanings of navigation terminology and weight and balance definitions, we tend to skip over the parts that seem monotonous or confusing.

What we need to do is spend more time on these parts so that instead of memorizing definitions for check rides, we have a deeper understanding of the topics and can actually explain the meaning instead of look for the right words for definitions we don't understand.

By the way, here are the types of NOTAMs, according to the FAA. 

  • CLASS I NOTAMS - distributed by telecommunication (what, exactly, does that mean?) 
  • CLASS II NOTAMS- distributed by something other than telecommunication, like the NTAP that comes out every 28 days. 
  • INTERNATIONAL NOTAMS - distributed in more than one country, and created in the ICAO format or via the NTAP. This would be important, of course, for anyone flying outside the United States. 
  • DOMESTIC NOTAMS- sent out to the United States and sometimes even Canada. 
  • CIVIL NOTAMS- not military. 
  • MILITARY NOTAMS- not civil. 
  • PUBLISHED NOTAMS- I suppose this means they were published. Somewhere. 
  • FDC NOTAMS - FDC stands for Flight Data Center. These are NOTAMs you have to abide by, and they are published for federal-type things like airways and approaches. TFRs fall under FDC NOTAMs, but they're special, so they get to be called TFRs and treated very importantly. 
  • CENTER AREA NOTAMS- A center NOTAM is an FDC NOTAM that's issued for more than one airport that is covered under a particular center's territory. These include things like TFRs, laser activity, and airspace changes, to name a few. 
  • NOTAM (D)S INCLUDING (U) AND (O) NOTAMS - A NOTAM (D) is a NOTAM that is given distant dissemination beyond the scope of what the Flight Service Station is responsible for. The NOTAM (U) is a distant NOTAM that is unverified. The NOTAM (O) is an "other" type NOTAM that doesn't meet the criteria for a standard NOTAM, but is otherwise helpful to pilots. 
  • NOTAM (L)S OR LOCAL NOTAMS - Only used in the military, the local NOTAM used to be used at airports everywhere to disseminate local information. What used to be civil NOTAM (L)s are now civil NOTAM (D)s.