As the FAA looks to award the Future Flight Services Program (FFSP) contract in 2017, AOPA is working with other industry stakeholders on the Flight Service NAS Efficient Streamlined Services (FSNESS) User Group, to ensure the contract meets the needs of general aviation pilots.
Leidos currently holds the contract for Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS), and Leidos and CSRA hold the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS II) contracts. Services are expected to be integrated in a single contract under the FFSP.
The FSNESS User Group held a late September meeting in Washington, D.C. to consider sustaining, amending, or discontinuing various services, and AOPA was represented by Rune Duke, director of government affairs, airspace and air traffic.
In a report on the meeting, the FAA wrote that Duke’s leadership and work “was instrumental in the collaborative development of recommendations from the User Group.”
AOPA has conducted a number of recent surveys and worked with the FAA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Indiana University to analyze the data and understand which services are being utilized by GA pilots and which services could be modernized or removed.
"Our collaboration with the FAA and the research community has been very effective at ensuring the future requirements will be data-driven and based on general aviation pilot input,” said Duke.
Among the key services to pilots that AOPA has identified include the continued ability for pilots to talk to a flight briefer, a robust preflight website, and access to key services for third-party vendors. AOPA is also asking the FAA to update publications to reflect the modern flight planning process in which most preflight information is obtained via electronic means and may not necessarily be from an FAA flight service resource.
Additionally, following AOPA’s 2014 request, the contracts will be awarded through a competitive bidding process. The FAA also has announced the future Flight Service contract will require the provision of preflight, in-flight, and flight data services. This capability includes providing services to users via telephone, radio, and web.
"We know pilots perceive barriers to taking full advantage of the electronic resources available to them because of outdated guidance and disclaimers that state calling is the only approved manner to get preflight information,” said Duke. “AOPA routinely hears from our members about the benefits of briefing online and we are working with the FAA to ensure pilots know about the many free online resources.”