Areas with a preponderance of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) activity are typically noted on sectional charts with a small airplane symbol, similar to that used for glider operating areas but with the letters “UA” instead of “G.” Expect UAS activity in nearby restricted or other special-use airspace and military installations.
Be alert if you spot the symbol near your planned route, and pay close attention to notams: If a UAS TFR is issued, mark the location and boundaries on your chart. If there’s no TFR and operations are conducted outside of controlled airspace, note times and altitudes. In addition, the airport remarks for joint civil/military airports may address UAS flight activity. For example, Sierra Vista Municipal-Libby AAF (KFHU) notes, “Manned and unmanned aircraft not authorized in the same traffic pattern. Arriving manned aircraft may follow unmanned aircraft on final.”
Learn more with the Air Safety Institute’s free online course, “Unmanned Aircraft and the National Airspace System”.
Finding the notams relevant to your planned flights just got easier. The FAA’s new online search tool streamlines the burdensome and confusing process of wading through scores of safety notices filled with obscure acronyms. The new system offers pilots the ability to filter notams to their own preferences, and it presents the information more clearly by offering plain language.
Pilots might consider bookmarking the website for convenience.
AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Safety Advisor Bruce Landsberg said the new FAA system makes progress, but he urged the agency to do more.
“If everything is important, nothing is important,” he said. “Prioritization is the key. If I’m flying day VFR, I don’t need to be inundated with changes to IFR procedures or unlit towers.”
When it’s fully complete in late 2015, the FAA says the search tool will make notams easier and quicker to submit, and pilots will be able to retrieve the information on a wide variety of devices. —Dave Hirschman