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Filing from Miami? New phone number

If you need an international briefing or to file an international flight plan out of Miami, there's a new flight service phone number — 800/432-4716. Calling that number will ensure you are connected to a Miami briefer certified for international operations.

Many pilots were used to calling a local number for the Miami International Automated Flight Service Station. But when the Miami AIFSS closed for refurbishment, the FAA didn't transfer that line to Lockheed Martin. So, suddenly pilots couldn't get an international briefing or file an international flight plan through the number they've always used.

AOPA contacted Lockheed Martin, who quickly implemented a fix. ( See our FSS blog for more details.)

Pilots heat up FSS hotline

Forty-eight comments in the first four days of operation. The flight service station (FSS) comment line (888/FLT-SRVC) is operating and the data is flowing to the FAA, Lockheed Martin, and AOPA.

"The majority of comments have fallen into the same complaint areas," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "Delays in getting through to a briefer, and poor briefings or briefers unfamiliar with the area."

The toll-free flight service comment line was launched July 23 following an AOPA suggestion.

"While the quantitative telephone statistics indicate that hold times and dropped calls are declining, those averages don't capture qualitative information or the experiences of individual pilots," Rudinger said. "If pilots call 888/358-7782 immediately after a bad briefing, dropped call, or excessive hold time, we can generate data on the quality of the service. And that's what really matters to pilots."

A data summary from the FSS comment line supplied to AOPA shows 13 complaints about delays in getting through to a briefer, nine pilots unable to get a briefer at all, 14 complaints about poor briefings or briefers unfamiliar with the area, nine dropped calls or flight plans, and three erroneous flight plans. There were also three positive comments.

Lockheed Martin has committed to researching every single complaint recorded on the FSS comment line and reporting back to the pilot and the FAA with a resolution of the problem within 15 days.

"Since AOPA also gets a copy of every comment, we intend to follow up with pilots to see how Lockheed Martin responded and make sure that the problems really are being resolved," said Rudinger.

Updated: August 1, 2007, 1:27 p.m. EDT

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