Some members may not agree, but overall, Lockheed Martin has earned a B+ so far for its operation of the flight service station (FSS) system, according to AOPA officials.
Company executives met last week with AOPA staff to review progress and AOPA members' concerns about the service they're getting from AFSS facilities.
Overall, Lockheed Martin and AOPA members concur; service is good, but it still needs improvement.
"We have an ongoing communication with Lockheed Martin so that they remain well aware of our members' needs," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We're not going to let them slide on any of their service promises.
"And their management seems committed to providing high-quality information to pilots quickly."
According to Lockheed Martin, their briefers are answering calls in less than 30 seconds on average. That's better than the FAA's average when it ran the automated flight service station system (AFSS), and Lockheed Martin is doing it with 500 fewer employees.
But not doing it perfectly, yet.
Some members have reported being on hold longer than 30 seconds or being transferred to other facilities where the specialists aren't as knowledgeable about local conditions.
Company officials acknowledge that some stations are not fully staffed, particularly those destined for closure as part of the modernization program, and that can lead to longer hold times or to the call being transferred to a specialist in another facility.
But Lockheed Martin is working to solve that problem. Its second class of specialists will graduate this month, all trained to FAA and National Weather Service standards. And the company is actively recruiting pilots already living in hard-to-staff cities to train them as FSS specialists.
The company is continuing to train and certify briefers on specific flight planning areas. Ultimately, you should always talk to a briefer who has knowledge of your local area.
Lockheed's managers told AOPA that they are serious about responding to and resolving pilot complaints. Any complaint - whether by phone or to their Web site - will be investigated by the facility manager, and the pilot will get an answer, usually within a day or two.
Of course, they would appreciate compliments as well.
"Lockheed Martin gets paid for performance. The faster the calls are answered, the fewer the complaints, the more money they can earn," said Boyer. "So they have every incentive for doing this job well."
August 23, 2006