It happened quietly, without any pomp and circumstance. But it was a first step in Lockheed Martin's effort to modernize the flight service station (FSS) system, called Flight Service 21 (FS21).
The Leesburg Flight Service Hub in Virginia, the first of three FSS hub stations, was activated at 1 a.m. Eastern on February 22. During this move, the Anniston, Alabama, FSS operations were assumed by the hub.
"Pilots shouldn't notice any difference in the services they receive," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "We met with Lockheed officials earlier this February to discuss the activation and ensure pilot services would not be hindered."
AOPA participates in quarterly status meetings with Lockheed to receive progress updates. Last year, AOPA surveyed its members on Lockheed's performance and presented its concerns to the company's executives.
"We were involved in the FAA's study to contract flight service and were successful in ensuring the new system would be focused on customer service," Rudinger said. "Now we are making sure Lockheed lives up to those promises."
While the Leesburg hub is up and running, pilots should note that the Leesburg FSS is still operating and will not be consolidated into the hub until the end of April.
The Lansing, Michigan, and Forth Worth, Texas, hubs are currently being tested, and Lansing is scheduled to go active in mid-March.
By the end of this summer, Lockheed expects to have all of the hubs active and the 58 original FSS sites consolidated into 16.
AOPA encourages pilots who experience difficulties with FSS during this transition to notify Lockheed Martin through its pilot information portal.
For more information, see " Flight Service Station Modernization: Lockheed Martin to Provide Flight Services for the 21st Century" and " Wx Watch: Brave New Beginnings" (February 2007 Pilot).
February 26, 2007