The FAA has agreed to maintain direction finding (DF) equipment at 111 flight service stations though 2010 following AOPA advocacy efforts. The FAA had originally planned to phase out all DF sites back in 1997.
"DF equipment helps FSS specialists steer lost or distressed aircraft to safety," said Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs. "In many parts of the country without low-level radar coverage, particularly Alaska, a 'DF steer' is the primary tool for guiding an aircraft to the closest airport and alerting appropriate agencies to an aircraft's location."
(VHF direction finding begins when a pilot contacts a DF-equipped facility. The facility will ask the pilot to "key" his radio transmitter for a specified length of time until the DF equipment can "home in" on the signal. This allows fixing the aircraft's bearing from the facility.)
At the request of AOPA and other user groups, the FAA conducted a study to identify locations that still require DF coverage.
AOPA helped the FAA determine those locations by surveying AOPA members and consulting with FSS personnel in the field. As a result, 103 locations throughout the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) will retain direction finding equipment and, eight new sites will be added. (See attachment.)
Antiquated "tube-type" DF equipment will be replaced with newer solid-state designs. Over the next few months, the FAA will decommission DF equipment at other locations where it is no longer required.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside Washington, D.C., represents the interests of general aviation, the non-scheduled flying that constitutes 77 percent of U.S. aircraft operations. General aviation aircraft comprise 96 percent of the total U.S. civilian air fleet.
Its membership is composed of more than 355,000 pilots who own or fly three quarters of the nation's 192,000 general aviation aircraft.
March 13, 2000