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Still plenty of improvement needed on FSS, report showsStill plenty of improvement needed on FSS, report shows

Still plenty of improvement needed on FSS, report shows

By AOPA ePublishing staff

FSS resources

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Lost flight plans continue to be the biggest area of complaint for pilots calling the flight service station (FSS) system, according to a report submitted to Congress.

This is the first such report the FAA is now providing Capitol Hill every 90 days to show what it and Lockheed Martin are doing to fix long hold times, dropped calls, and problems with briefer knowledge and performance.

“The report affirms what we already knew, but the real test will be in the performance of the system from here on out,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “The system’s performance has frustrated many in the aviation community. Pilots must be able to get the services they need.”

AOPA pressed for congressional oversight after the system imploded last April and the problems continued through the summer. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), chairman of the House aviation subcomittee, heeded AOPA President Phil Boyer’s recommendation from an October hearing and called on the FAA to provide regular updates. Acting on another AOPA suggestion, the FAA activated a toll-free “flight service comment line” (888/FLT-SRVC or 888/358-7782).

“We will continue to press for improvements to the FSS service and for better customer service measures,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulator affairs. “For us, it all comes down to what pilots are experiencing on the other end of the phone line.”

Local knowledge was another area that registered high on the list of complaints. The FAA said a modified “preflight call tree” allows calls to roll over to nearby flight areas rather than the first available nationwide briefer. Operational briefers have also received refresher training on notams.

A software update supposedly fixed the dropped call issue. The FAA and Lockheed Martin are still working on lost flight plans, while a call tree has been put in place to make sure clearance requests are routed to the correct areas.

Lockheed Martin averaged 650,000 operations a month in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2007. The FAA, meanwhile, received some 1,724 complaints for that time period. The FAA rewards the company for meeting performance measures, but Lockheed Martin failed six of 14 measures in the fourth quarter of 2007 and four of seven annual measures for that year.

Even with all the problems, the FAA still thinks it’s on track toward saving $2.2 billion over the 13-year program.

February 21, 2008

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