Lockheed Martin says service will not suffer when it closes seven of the remaining 13 Automated Flight Service Stations on Feb. 1 and lays off another 160 flight service specialists and management personnel. Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Jan Gottfredsen told AVweb that a 13-percent reduction in call volume combined with efficiencies gained with a new communications network mean that the six remaining AFSS facilities will be able to seamlessly handle the calls. The facilities being closed are Columbia, Mo., Kankakee, Ill., Lansing, Mich., Honolulu, Hawaii, Nashville, Tenn., Seattle, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla. Those staying open include the three "hubs" of Ashburn, Va., Ft. Worth, Texas, and Prescott, Ariz., along with AFSSs at Miami, Fla., Princeton, Minn., and Raleigh, N.C. Miami will have staff specializing in Caribbean traffic and Princeton will be staffed with people knowledgeable about cross-border flights to and from Canada. Raleigh is the backup for Ashburn, the headquarters for the system. "We determined there will not be any diminished level of support" resulting from the closures, Gottfredsen said. However, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association isn't buying that and spokesman Dale Wright told AVweb there are fears controllers will be expected to fill any gaps left by the cuts. "Controllers are not going to pick up their slack," Wright said. "We don't have the workforce...."
NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert said controllers have already seen an increase in workload in some areas because pilots are having trouble filing IFR flight plans before they launch. She said they will, instead, launch VFR and file in the air, adding to the controller workload. Gottfredsen said she hasn't heard those specific complaints and noted that Lockheed Martin is meeting or exceeding performance standards set in its contract with the FAA. "We remain committed to the highest level of service," she said.