By AOPA ePublishing staff
AOPA’s flight service station strategy worked, AOPA President Phil Boyer said at a hangar session on April 11 at Sun ’n Fun.
While that statement might surprise some pilots who have experienced problems using the new flight service station system, “We supported [flight service] outsourcing for a very good business reason,” said Boyer. “Can you imagine what the user fee battle would have been like if they had taken the $600 million a year that flight service was costing and assessed it against gasoline-burning piston-engine aircraft?”
The owners of those aircraft, who are the majority users of the flight service station system, pay about $60 million a year in fuel taxes. We had to reduce the bloated cost of the system, said Boyer, and “even though all of us have suffered a bit in the early transition period, the strategy worked. No one brought up that we weren’t paying our fair share for flight service. We got it off the table.”
Boyer asked the audience of pilots outside AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent if their experience with flight service has improved. Most conceded that service is much better today than it was a year ago.
“We didn’t pick Lockheed Martin to run flight service,” said Boyer, and “it ain’t the old system, folks.” If it’s just a simple change to a flight plan, “I’ll punch in or say ‘any briefer,’” he said.
And Boyer always uses three-letter identifiers, rather than names, when talking to a briefer. If you have decided you will talk to any briefer, rather than one specifically certified for your flight plan area, “they don’t know all the names out there, any more than we do when ATC says ‘go direct BEANO,’ and we have to figure out how to spell it and enter it into the navigation system.” (See AOPA’s new online course A Pilot’s Guide to Flight Service for more tips on how to use the new flight service station system.)
“It’s a new world, but it’s a world in which we don’t have to pay user fees for flight service,” said Boyer.
April 11, 2008