The FAA wants to transform itself to an “enabler,” not a “provider” of pilot weather briefing services, with automation playing a significant role, when the familiar pilot experience of obtaining information from flight service enters its next phase.
AOPA supports the modernization of flight service, and has worked to ensure that whatever changes occur, pilots can count on this: Pilots will still be able to get a human flight service briefer on the phone if needed, and the service will remain free to users, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security.
In August, the FAA invited contractor proposals—formally called a screening information request—by a submission deadline of Oct. 25. Issuing the bid invitation was a major step in the FAA’s Future Flight Services Plan toward awarding a multi-year contract with a five-year term that could be followed by 10 single-year option periods.
“Several vendors are thought to be interested in bidding,” said Duke.
Companies considering accepting the FAA’s bid offer will have to satisfy three ambitious goals the FAA has set for the Future Flight Services Plan: The agency plans to reduce its costs for providing flight service by more than 65 percent. The service must “encourage the use of technology, industry best practices, and authoritative flight data” accessible through the FAA’s System-Wide Information Management Program, and it must “facilitate and gain stakeholder acceptance of changes” to flight service.
“FAA is committed to working with industry stakeholders to facilitate flight service modernization objectives of more efficient service delivery at a better value,” said Kimmarie Grimaldi, manager of the Future Flight Services Program. “This collaboration with industry stakeholders has raised awareness, identified challenges and potential opportunities to assist with improving FAA's flight service modernization strategy and requirements.”
Duke credited the FAA with taking a collaborative approach to the modernization effort under which the FAA had considered doing away with human weather briefers until AOPA objected, he said.
As a result of the give and take, one of the factors on which a contractor’s offer will be evaluated is the extent to which the bidder “demonstrates how it will proactively and effectively engage and communicate with the broad GA community.”
“We will remain involved to ensure that the next contract has a smooth transition and any modifications to services do not disrupt GA pilots’ operations,” Duke said.