Congress Tells FAA To Avoid FSS User Fees

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Last week was the deadline for bids to outsource the FSS system, and Congress told the FAA to ensure that pilots continue to get the best possible flight briefing and en route information services without user fees, AOPA said on Friday. The House Appropriations Committee told the FAA to have specific, comprehensive customer-service standards to maintain the quality of pilot briefings. AOPA said its legislative affairs staff worked with the committee to add the FSS service directive to a report that accompanies next year's funding bill for the FAA. The bill has been approved by the committee and now goes to the full House and Senate. "This guidance from Congress is a very pointed reminder to the agency that pilots need a high level of service, whether the briefers work directly for the government or indirectly through a contractor," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Flight Service Station functions are safety-of-flight issues, and pilot service and safety can't be shortchanged." The FAA is currently conducting a study to determine whether it should contract out some FSS functions, much as it does already with the DUAT service. Bidders on the FSS system include aerospace companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. The FAA itself, in partnership with FSS equipment manufacturer Harris Corporation, is also in the bidding.