August 19, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has responded quickly and positively to a request from the NBAA Access Committee to remove a restrictive disclaimer from certain government websites used by pilots and others to search for notices to airmen (NOTAMs) and other aeronautical information.

The current language has not only warned visitors that the sites are not considered official sources, but also raised concerns that third-party sources commonly used by NBAA Members to retrieve NOTAMs might not be considered compliant with Part 91. The FAA said the disclaimers will be modified on Aug. 22 to legally allow for the use of the information contained on the websites.

Over the past decade, the FAA has made great strides in bringing flight planning information to pilots online. But its NOTAM Search and PilotWeb sites have required visitors to acknowledge the current restrictive warning before entering: “This site is informational in nature,” the disclaimer reads, “Use of this website does not satisfy the requirements of 14 CFR [section] 91.103 and is not a substitute for a NOTAM Briefing through a Flight Service Station or DUATS.”

“The FAA’s NOTAM Search website provides a wealth of great information for pilots,” said Bob Lamond, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure. “However, the disclaimer legally made it impossible for pilots to actually use the information and forced them to duplicate obtaining all that same information from ‘official’ and less user friendly sources.”

Richard Boll, a member of the NBAA Access Committee, said the impact of the disclaimers went far beyond direct users of the FAA websites. He noted, “Many companies’ flight operations use various commercial flight-planning service providers. That disclaimer was very descriptive that the only sources that met the legal flight planning requirement in Part 91 were Flight Service Stations or DUATS. It had the potential to call into question the use of third-party service providers.”

Lamond said NBAA petitioned the FAA in early July requesting modification of the disclaimers. The FAA quickly agreed, acknowledging the issue and rapidly committing to modify the disclaimers.

Lamond added the disclaimer has been on various FAA sites for years and explains, “Years ago the FAA, like most government agencies, was not comfortable saying its Internet information was completely reliable or wouldn’t go down. We’ve challenged them by saying the Internet has matured to the point where it is obviously a key element of the future of aviation. NextGen is going to be dependent on robust use of the Internet and the FAA needed to start letting operators officially utilize this resource.”

He added that other features, such as the ability to access letters to airmen, are coming soon and will benefit from removal of the disclaimers.