Automated Flight Following Now In Alaska

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Flight Service Stations in Alaska now have an extra tool they can use to help track some aircraft that request flight-following services. FAA personnel will have access to a Web site from a private vendor that tracks the airplanes via satellites and displays their track on a map of the region. Tony Wylie, manager of the Alaska Flight Services Information Area Group, said staff won't actually monitor the flights, but will have immediate access to the information if the flight needs search and rescue. The FAA service will be extended only to aircraft operated by the federal government. It costs about $5,000 to equip each airplane with the "automated flight following" gear, which transmits the aircraft's location, speed, heading and altitude to a satellite. Vendors charge about $20 per hour for the monitoring service. "The Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior have been using it up here for a few years," said Wylie. "They've got a lot of their Forest Service firefighter aircraft equipped, and track where those guys are." So far, expansion of the service to privately operated aircraft has not been determined, the FAA says.