Wednesday, August 24, 2005
A few weeks ago, I was grounded because the President was in town. Pilots are notified of such occurrences by Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMs. For an example of what such a NOTAM looks like, see the NOTAM describing the Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) for the Crawford, Texas area during the President's vacation.
This example shows the things I hate most about the FAA's electronic dissemination of information:
- all capital letters
- fixed-length lines
- solid blocks of text broken up arbitrarily into "parts"
This format was in vogue for computer systems in the 1960's and 1970's, but seems pretty archaic today. I know there are some facilities out that rely on ancient equipment that can't handle cutting-edge features like lower-case letters or baud rates above 300, but can't we just give each of those facilities a few hundred bucks to buy a low-end PC?
I'm not complaining about the jargon or abbreviations or technical language—those things have their place. There are several pages of this stuff to wade through every time I get an electronic DUATS briefing, and it just hurts my eyes to read it.
It bothers me that these entrenched systems aren't updated, but I suppose critical systems (like the FAA and NWS) need stability. After all, the internets (as we know it) have only been around for a dozen years. That's not long compared to Teletype which is nearly 100 years old.