August 17, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
There must be a natural law to make sure that if someone writes an IFR training column discussing how to use a VOR cross-radial to nail down an instrument approach fix, a notice to airmen will pop up the next day placing that VOR out of service.
That happened right here not long ago. Here’s hoping the notam didn’t spoil anybody’s practice flight.
By popping up like that, the notam did serve a higher purpose: reminding instrument pilots to always read the fine print. That will be especially important for the next 12 weeks if you expect to fly to states well apportioned with electoral votes, as campaign-related temporary flight restrictions pop up, propelled by persistent political polling.
So here’s what happened with that VOR. The Aug. 10 “IFR Fix: ‘What’s that down there?’” discussed how a pilot could use the Madison (MAD) and the Hartford (HFD) VOR together to fly a local VOR-A approach.
If you had arisen the next morning, read that, and decided to go practice, you would (or should) have found a new notam restricting the procedure as follows, “DME REQUIRED EXCEPT FOR AIRCRAFT EQUIPPED WITH SUITABLE RNAV SYSTEM WITH GPS, HFD VOR OTS.”
The notam wasn’t there the day before. Nor would it be the next.
Continuing your preflight briefing, you would have encountered a second notam stating, “HFD NAV VOR/DME OTS WEF 1208111300-1208111900.”
That was good news. If you could postpone your flight until after 3 p.m., things would be back to normal.
Notam language is an exotic combination of longhand and abbreviations. It pays to know that, although we all have favorite navaids, “HFD VOR/DME OTS” doesn’t mean that the Hartford VOR/DME is an “outstanding” omni. It means that it was out of service.
“WEF” doesn’t mean Wednesday and Friday. You can derive its meaning from the context, but for the literal take, you would fish around until you found yourself downloading a list of FAA contractions. There, WEF is translated to “with effect from, or effective from.”
Don’t confuse WEF with the more urgent WIE (“with immediate effect, or effective immediately.”)
Know the code and be ready, as many pop-up TFRs and other notams of all sorts WIBIS (will be issued.)
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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