Duluth News Tribune

By Jimmy Lovrien

A  bill authored by U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., that would help find potential improvements to the federal pilot alert system passed the U.S. House on Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

The bill would create a task force to develop recommendations on modernizing the Federal Aviation Administration's aging U.S. Notices to Air Missions, or NOTAM, system. NOTAM is designed to provide pilots with information they might encounter on their flight, like runway closures, construction and bird-strike risks.

Earlier this month, the NOTAM system crashed when a contractor working on the system's databases accidentally deleted critical files, grounding flights nationwide for several hours.

“Failures of the NOTAM system earlier this month stressed the need to upgrade the program to ensure the safety of pilots, their crews and passengers,” Stauber, a congressman from Hermantown, said in a news release Wednesday. “I’ve heard from many pilots over the years about the vulnerabilities of the NOTAM system and this bill to address this issue has passed with bipartisan support the last two Congresses. My hope is that the Senate acts and passes this important legislation to help ensure another NOTAM system failure does not occur.”

The bill's push is being "co-led" by Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat from California, according to the release.

The bill, coined the NOTAM Improvement Act of 2023, passed the House in a 424-4 vote Wednesday. It had passed the House in the last two congresses but was never taken up by the Senate.

Klobuchar and Republican Sens. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, and Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia, said they were introducing a companion bill in the Senate on Wednesday.

“Travelers in the United States deserve safe and dependable air travel service, not nationwide ground stops caused by system failures. By upgrading and modernizing the FAA’s NOTAM system, our bipartisan legislation would improve aviation safety and prevent system outages from derailing travel,” Klobuchar said in a news release Wednesday. “As co-chair of the bipartisan Travel and Tourism Caucus, I look forward to working with Representative Stauber and my colleagues in the Senate to advance this bill and strengthen our air travel infrastructure.”

According to the bill's text, the task force would include representatives from air carriers, labor unions, and the general and business aviation industries. It would also include experts in aviation, human factors, computer system architecture and cybersecurity.

The task force would have a year to review the current NOTAM system and recommend how to better organize and display information to the pilots while "ensuring the stability, resiliency, and cybersecurity of the NOTAM computer system," the bill's text said.