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FSS forecast: partly cloudy service, chance of sunshine

Good news. Flight service station (FSS) complaints are declining. Bad news. The complaints are still about the same things: long wait times and dropped calls, briefers not knowledgeable about the area, and lost flight plans.

Since the flight service comment line (888/FLT-SRVC) went live July 23, more than 500 calls have been recorded. Some 25 percent of the complaints were about wait times, 12 percent on briefer knowledge, and 10 percent about lost flight plans.

Wait times and briefer knowledge should continue to improve as more briefers complete their transition training and the last of the old flight service stations are fully integrated into the FS21 (twenty-first century) system. The refurbished Miami station is scheduled to reopen this weekend.

There is a known issue on flight plans, according to Lockheed Martin. Because of a software error, about one out of every 500 plans filed gets sent to the wrong ATC host computer. The issue is most prevalent at airports near the boundary between two air route traffic control centers. Lockheed Martin is working on a fix.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any way that a pilot can check to confirm that an IFR flight plan has been received by the FAA’s computer. But if you have had recurring problems with lost flight plans, consider filing through the DUAT or DUATS system, which you can access with AOPA’s Real-Time Flight Planner. The DUAT/DUATS contractors tell AOPA that they are notified when the ATC host computer rejects a flight plan, and they try to resolve the issue for the pilot.

August 23, 2007

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