BEMIDJI, Minn. — Legislation authored by Minnesota Congressman Pete Stauber to improve air travel safety has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate.
The Notice to Airmen Improvement Act received bipartisan support in the House on June 14. If enacted, the bill would establish a Federal Aviation Association task force to determine what improvements should be made to the Notice to Airmen, or NOTAM, system.
The NOTAM system is used to disseminate information with non-standard safety instructions to pilots. Notices are filed through the system with the FAA alerting pilots of hazards, ranging from ice on runways to an obstruction light being out on a tower.
"The NOTAM system works pretty well for us and we use it almost daily, especially in the winter," said Karen Weller, Bemidji Regional Airport executive director. "Once we put that information in, pilots anywhere in the country can search for Bemidji and find out what's going on here. So it impacts the national airspace."
"When a tower is constructed, the private entity has to file a notice with the FAA so they're aware of what's out there," added Kyle Christiansen, Bemidji Airport director of operations. "Anyone with buildings of that height will know the requirements."
Weller said one of the most recent NOTAMs issued was for a light out on a building owned by Beltrami County. In those situations, the private entity will notify the airport.
According to feedback, though, some NOTAMs in the country can be streamlined.
"Members of the aviation community, including the pilots' association, came to me in the 116th Congress to talk about concerns they had with the information from NOTAMs," said Stauber, a Republican who represents Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. "We looked at it and felt it could be improved upon if we could get a task force put together."
Stauber, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif. The task force suggested by the legislation will include input from pilots, some of whom have said the NOTAM reports have become too long.
"Over time, the NOTAM have had information that was not as relevant to a top priority safety issue," Stauber said. "Pretty soon, the pilots weren't paying as much attention because more and more was added to them, where they became pages and pages. Our hope is to get the very most important piece of information for that pilot to the top of the NOTAM."
Stauber said his office is now approaching senators as the bill moves to the next stage of the congressional process.
"I really do believe that this will be taken up because it has to do with safety in the skies," Stauber said. "We know aviation travel is the safest form and this is going to enhance it. Senators on both sides of the aisle understand this issue."