AOPA has learned that tomorrow the FAA will issue a new notam, significantly revising the infamous "Catch-22" notam governing flight near large open-air events. AOPA sources have confirmed that both TSA and the FAA have approved the revisions.
The new notam will follow AOPA recommendations, limiting airspace restrictions to major stadiums seating more than 30,000 people and limiting the effective time of the restrictions from one hour before the event to one hour after. Aerial advertisers and others needing access to the airspace during the event will be able to obtain a waiver after passing an expedited security clearance.
"This is a significant improvement over the old notam that prohibited flight within 3 nautical miles and 3,000 feet altitude of any major professional or collegiate sporting event or any other major open-air assembly of people," said Melissa K. Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic. "It's specific to locations and times. However, there is still no adequate provision for VFR use of nontowered airports near these major events."
AOPA is continuing to push for language that would permit aircraft to land and take off from these airports using approved flight paths.
AOPA has been working for months to obtain this notam revision. The association repeatedly advised the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that the original notam was vague, unenforceable, and ultimately unfair to pilots.
AOPA provided specific documentation to the FAA and TSA on the number of airports, aircraft, and pilots affected by the notam. AOPA President Phil Boyer and other AOPA staff met with FAA and TSA officials to get the notam changed, the most recent meetings this week.
The new notam will prohibit aircraft from flying closer than 3 nm and 3,000 feet agl of stadiums seating 30,000 or more people during the time a Major League Baseball, NFL, or NCAA Division IA game or NASCAR race is occurring. The flight prohibition extends from one hour before to one hour after the event. However, aircraft that are under air traffic control are permitted to land and take off from airports near the event.
The new notam will also reinstate waiver procedures to allow certain operations near the stadium. Operators can apply for a waiver online. Pilots will be able obtain a provisional waiver through an expedited criminal background check.
"TSA has come to understand that banner towers and other aerial advertisers provide a legitimate service and aren't a security or safety threat," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "We compliment TSA for creating a system to respond quickly to waiver requests."