When is a NOTAM not a NOTAM?

As anyone who follows the news even casually knows, there was a total failure of the FAA’s NOTAM system on January 11, which led to a ground-stop for most flights in, to, and from the U.S. Later in the day the system was returned to normal.

What was interesting was how news reports described what a NOTAM was: Notice to Air Mission. This writer had never heard of that translation before. Never mind the awkward grammar (how does a ‘mission’ take notice of something?). A little bit of research revealed that the FAA issued a document (JO 7930.2S CHG 2), with an effective date of December 2, 2021, that changed the American definition from ‘Airmen’ to ‘Air Mission’.

That same day Nav Canada also suffered a system failure that led to NOTAMs not being available. Nav Canada states that the system failures are unrelated, and that they were able to find a ‘workaround’. As these events were being covered by the media, reporters here in Canada were faced with translating NOTAM to their listeners and readers, so they took their cues from the American media and reported that Canadian NOTAMs were also ‘Notice to Air Mission.’ Except it is not.

Our research revealed that Nav Canada still refers to NOTAMs as Notice to Airmen, as does Transport Canada (and the U.N. agency ICAO). This is surprising since the Canadian federal government not long ago changed the descriptors of military service members from ‘airman’ to ‘aviator’ in the case of the RCAF and ‘seaman’ to sailor in the case of the RCN. No change was needed in the army – it remains ‘soldier’.

Given that Canada is generally quicker to adopt new gender-neutral expressions and nouns than our American cousins, it begs the question, what’s the holdup?

As an interesting aside, it was the not-for-profit Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide (iWOAW), founded by Canadian Aviator columnist Mireille Goyer (Right Seat), that petitioned the FAA (and ICAO) in to make the term, and others related to it, gender-neutral.