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IFR Fix: If you build it, post a notamIFR Fix: If you build it, post a notam

The transport airplane was accelerating through 80 knots on takeoff when a voice on the frequency shouted, “Stop, stop, stop!”

A preflight check of airport construction notices will familiarize pilots with notams in effect at planned destinations that could affect surface operations. Image courtesy of the FAA.

That’s when the pilots, who had just endured a long pretakeoff delay, saw an aircraft taking off on another runway and realized that they had mistaken another flight’s takeoff clearance for their own.

That error was compounded when their transmission was stepped on by another sender—and all of it was happening amid the confusion of a runway closure that had disrupted the airport’s normal flow of traffic.

As if the rejected takeoff had not been enough excitement for the passengers and crew, a new 30-minute delay followed before another takeoff attempt (to allow hot brakes to cool). Later, when sorting through possible causes of the event in a report to the Aviation Safety Reporting System, a flight crew member addressed the confusing conditions on the ground at the airport in a cautionary note: “With construction on runways and taxiways it is very important to remain vigilant through all phases of flight.”

Even an airport you think you know like the back of your hand can deliver a knockout punch when a major construction project, paving operation, or other upgrade is in progress. Dozens of ASRS reports cite construction activity as a factor in mishaps, misunderstandings, misplaced signage—even the night effect of “blinding strobe lights” atop construction vehicles on a pilot trying to taxi in after landing. (Air traffic control eventually sent a “follow me” vehicle out to help the disoriented aviator.)

With traffic volumes now low during the coronavirus pandemic, airports may find it opportune to launch some construction projects that would have snarled operations under normal circumstances. If you look up a destination airport and see a series of notams for disruptions such as runway or taxiway closures, ramp restrictions, or navaids or lighting temporarily out of service, it should alert you to possibly complicated surface conditions. Check for an aerodrome notam directing you to a “construction graphic.” Clicking that link will bring up a construction notice that displays published notams on an airport diagram, including runway and taxiway closures caused by many air carrier aircraft being parked there as the coronavirus pandemic slashed passenger traffic volume.

Construction notices are updated daily Monday through Friday. They do not report closures or openings of less than 24 hours. There is a page of construction notices on the FAA website, although later this year the information will be moved to the FAA’s Notam Search page, according to the FAA.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Situational Awareness, Notams

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