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Telecommunications Update – NOTAM Changes

December 15, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission this week, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, announced a revised policy for tower owners’ required notices regarding extinguished or faulty obstruction lighting.  In an effort to streamline its processes related to Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), tower owners will now have the option of self selecting the amount of time their NOTAMs remain active.  Tower owners still must notify the FAA within 30 minutes of discovery of any lighting outage or malfunction, and they must take steps to repair the faulty lighting as rapidly as possible.  See 47 C.F.R. §17.48.

Previous submissions to the FAA’s web-based outage reporting form resulted in the automatic issuance of NOTAMs that expire after 15 days.  When repairs are not feasible within that 15 day timeframe allotted, tower owners were forced to, often repeatedly, cancel and reapply for NOTAMs until such time as the necessary repairs could be completed.  In an effort to alleviate the administrative burdens placed on reporting tower owners, as well as the FCC and FAA staff charged with tracking and enforcing the obstruction lighting rules, the new flexible expiration date will enable all parties to focus more resources on alleviating the root problem rather than on clearing administrative hurdles.

The rule changes are expected to take effect in mid-January, 2015.  While tower owners may self-select their repair deadlines, they are reminded that every obstruction lighting outage should be corrected as soon as possible.  Keep an eye out over the coming months and years for more aggressive enforcement of this provision of the rules.  Requests for unusually long repair times, and the failure to cancel NOTAMs where repairs have already been completed, will receive increased scrutiny under the new rules. 

For more information regarding this rule change, or assistance navigating the often complex regulations governing the deployment and use of telecommunications infrastructure, please contact Michael Higgs.