A personal note about NOTAMs

I learned a lot this week.

On Wednesday, I published an article in our International Flight Ops Bulletin. Our normal readership is 40,000, and that usually results in 4,000 or so immediate looks at our blog website.

By Friday, a quarter of a million people had visited flightservicebureau.org.

My inbox overflowed. I’m still replying one by one, with a couple hundred still to go.

The reason? I called a spade a spade, and used a profanity to describe what has become of the International NOTAM System. My own frustration forged the narrative. For many, I tapped into a channel of visceral agreement. For some, however, the word bullshit is not acceptable.

For me, this is not a question of whether or not it was the right word to use. This is not a question of free speech or the First Amendment. It’s not a question of ‘being polite’, or remembering our ‘professional audience’.

It is a question of not holding back. Not having a public and private persona. Not bowing to the stifling rules of Corporate Comms. Not assessing how this might impact ‘the business’. And not being afraid to get it wrong.

We have a voice here at Flight Service Bureau, and we’re going to use it. And sometimes, we might get it wrong. Sometimes, we might cross lines that make people uncomfortable.

In fact, we do that every week. We routinely receive government requests, demands in fact – from Aviation Authorities, from Foreign Affairs Ministries, Company Lawyers – to remove information from our bulletin, to say less, to not call their airspace ‘unsafe‘, not report on incidents at their airports, not voice airlines and pilots frustrations, lest others turn away their business.

And by very definition, sometimes we have to get it wrong. If we craft and control every bit of information, every warning, and every article, editing the life out of the story and the truth, then we’re failing. We’re not being brave enough. Maybe we could have said it differently, but that’s not the point.

This week, when I got 400 emails in an amazing show of support, it made me realise that we are doing this for a large community that love what we do, and that makes me very proud to serve you. Going above 2,000 members in OPSGROUP is major milestone.

We have a clear mission: keep the International Ops community – Pilots, Dispatchers, Controllers, Airlines, Organisations – informed and safe, in an ever-increasing web of bureaucracy, complexity and litigation.

We’ll fight the fight for you, and we’ll tell it how it is.





  1. Thanks for the article. I shared it with my fellow dispatchers at
    AAL. We read pages and pages of BS notams on a daily basis and wondered if anyone else had similar feelings about the whole process.
    Bill/Chief Dispatcher AAL

  2. SLC 03/192 SLC OBST TOWER LGT (ASR 1038140) 404817.80N1115350.80W
    (3.78NM ENE SLC) 1733.40FT (24FT AGL) OUT OF SERVICE

    If you are 3.78 NM ENE of SLC at 24ft AGL something is very very wrong!

  3. Thanks for calling a spade a spade. Case in point, current NOTAM at my current airport:

    SLC 03/192 SLC OBST TOWER LGT (ASR 1038140) 404817.80N1115350.80W
    (3.78NM ENE SLC) 1733.40FT (24FT AGL) OUT OF SERVICE

    No excuse for the absurdity of many of the NOTAMs.

  4. Bravo Mark for telling it like it is!
    “Bullshit!” Much more succinct than “bovine excrement.”

  5. Martin O Keeffe

    18 March, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Hey Mark. Finally, some straight talk. All too often, we bow down to the red tape at the expense of not being truthful enough to ourselves, pilots, ATCOs and the flying public. Good work. Glad to see you’re doing really well. Martin.

  6. Agree with your words, this is the brainstorming for the better change

  7. I’m right behind you. Keep up the good work.
    One of the greatest threats to civilization is over authoritative bureaucrats who think they are more important than what they regulate.

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