The FAA announced today that it is moving forward with a study that will compare the cost of providing flight service station services by the FAA versus the costs of contracting services to commercial companies.
"All air traffic control services are critical to public safety and should be provided by the government without fees," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But our members certainly know there may be better ways of doing things. This is the type of analysis that many of us perform each day in our business and personal lives. AOPA will keep a close watch on this study since, regardless of the outcome, it will point to how we can build a better FSS system capable of meeting pilots' needs in the twenty-first century."
The 18-month study will be conducted under the guidelines of Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, which directs government agencies to examine functions that might be performed by commercial sources. The circular recognizes that some functions are inherently governmental, and that government employees may be the best providers of the service.
The study will look at alternatives for providing modernized flight services to pilots with the government still retaining the ultimate responsibility for providing the service. It will focus on 58 of the total 61 FSSs, excluding Alaska's FSS functions due to the unique operating requirements in that state.
"Clearly, the FAA study must recognize that the provision of aviation weather services is a government function, and these services should not be fee based or privatized," said Boyer.
The use of outside resources for FSS functions is not unprecedented. In the 1980s, the FAA implemented the DUAT service, with private contractors providing aviation weather services directly to pilots.
AOPA has already met with the FAA and the union leadership representing the hard-working corps of FSS specialists. The association is playing a key role in identifying general aviation requirements related to aviation weather services, notams, and other safety functions performed by FSSs. "We are engaged. AOPA staff is committed to seeing that all pilots benefit from this effort to identify the needs for a more modern flight service station system," said Boyer.