Notam allows VFR pattern work near U.S. borders

August 6, 2009

Michigan’s Grosse Ile Municipal Airport sits so close to the U.S.-Canada border that pilots operating in the traffic pattern may cross into Canadian airspace. Currently, an international notam requires pilots flying at that airport or any airport near a U.S. border to talk to air traffic control and squawk a transponder code when crossing the border, with no exceptions to those operating in the local traffic pattern. But that will change Aug. 15.

AOPA Acting Manager of Air Traffic Services Claire Kultgen worked with the FAA to modify the current international notam to allow VFR traffic pattern operations at airports close to the U.S. border. Under the new notam, which goes into effect August 15th, pilots conducting VFR operations at border airports will no longer need to contact ATC, squawk a discrete code, or file a flight plan while in the traffic pattern.

“With the emphasis on cross-border operations and security, pilots at Grosse Ile were reasonably worried about being penalized for crossing the border or making an inadvertent mistake,” Kultgen said.

In fact, pilots were so concerned that some started shortening their patterns to avoid crossing the border, creating safety-of-flight issues.

AOPA arranged a meeting with AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Alan Anderson, Grosse Ile airport officials, and representatives from the FAA and Customs and Border Protection to address the concerns. Kultgen worked with all of the groups to help relay concerns to FAA so that the new notam would eliminate any questions regarding VFR traffic pattern operations at border airports.

“AOPA works closely with FAA and CBP officials, and this is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when all of the stakeholders work through an issue together,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs.