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NOTAM Rule Tweak Coming

FAA to let owners self-select how long notification should last for lighting outages

The Federal Aviation Administration is streamlining part of the process by which tower owners notify it that their tower lights are out.

Owners must notify the FAA within 30 minutes (using an FAA-maintained Web-based system) when a tower light goes out or for some other lighting-related malfunction. The FAA then issues a Notice to Airmen (or NOTAM) to notify pilots. The tower owner must have the outage repaired as soon as possible.

Currently NOTAMs expire after 15 days. Sometimes that’s not enough time to complete the repairs and the tower owner then has to submit paperwork to cancel the earlier NOTAM and get another one approved.

This is a burden for the staffs of the FAA and the FCC who monitor and process the electronic submissions, according to the commission. Plus, the “proliferation of electronic submissions could hamper aviation safety,” states the Wireless Bureau in its notice about the issue.

The planned change will allow tower owners to determine themselves how much time the repair might take, eliminating the automatic 15-day deadline.

The bureau predicts the change will become effective in mid-January.

The agency isn’t letting tower owners off the hook however, emphasizing that every outage should still be repaired ASAP, and the FAA and FCC will respond “aggressively” if they discover abuses. FCC staff will continue to monitor the NOTAM notices they receive from the FAA and may investigate cases where a tower owner selects an unusually long time to make a repair, or where multiple NOTAMs have been submitted in a compressed time-frame for a tower or when an owner repeatedly doesn’t cancel the NOTAMs after repairs are done.