AOPA has taken the flight service station problems straight to a government watchdog. AOPA President Phil Boyer and Executive Vice President for Government Affairs Andy Cebula spent nearly two hours on June 6 detailing pilots' woes before Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel and his staff.
"Long hold times, dropped calls, lost flight plans, inexperienced briefers, failure to supply critical information such as TFRs [temporary flight restrictions]. We laid it all out," said Boyer. "We are also giving them a copy of every complaint that members have sent us."
AOPA shared the results of its most recent pilot survey to reflect the experience of the entire pilot community.
More than two-thirds of the pilots surveyed felt that service from the automated flight service station (AFSS) network had become worse in the last 30 days. Some 44 percent said that they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the briefing received, although the majority gave briefers high marks for professionalism and courtesy.
But not for content delivered; 44 percent said that they were dissatisfied with briefers' local geographical and meteorological knowledge.
And while the FAA's contract with Lockheed Martin requires phone calls to be answered within 21 seconds, only 18 percent of pilots surveyed said that their calls were answered that quickly. More than 50 percent said it took up to five minutes to get through to a briefer, and 30 percent reported waits of 10 minutes or more.
And that data caused Boyer to question whether Lockheed Martin's performance metrics were capturing the state of the entire system.
"On a day when Lockheed Martin reported that the longest hold time for the entire system was four minutes, we had a member report of a 20-minute hold," said Boyer. "And their system averages seem to be much better than what our members say are their real-time experiences. We encouraged the IG to resolve that apparent discrepancy."
The DOT inspector general is charged with promoting effectiveness and stopping waste, fraud, and abuse in the FAA and other transportation agencies. While the IG's office is part of the Department of Transportation, it is completely independent from influence or control by other department officials. The department and Congress look to the IG's audits and investigations to manage programs and propose new laws and regulations.
June 7, 2007