AOPA On FSS Contracting Out

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Position Paper Released...

The flies on the wall are likely to get an earful at a meeting between the presidents of AOPA and the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) next week. The meeting was called between AOPA's Phil Boyer and NAATS President Wally Pike to discuss the potential contracting out of flight service station functions. But Wednesday, a week before the meeting was scheduled, AOPA released its own analysis of an FAA study of the issue, complete with a written position on the process so far. AOPA comes out backing the study itself and doesn't oppose the potential for FSS services to be contracted out. Pike had hoped to use next week's meeting to convince AOPA of its belief that the study is the first step on the slippery slope toward full privatization of the entire air traffic control system. NAATS was also hoping to enlist the aid of AOPA in fighting this study and any further plans in this direction. "AOPA would be an extremely valuable ally," said Pike last week. We couldn't reach him for comment on this latest development but we expect to hear from him for a future edition.

...Government Oversight A Must

AOPA's position is that the FSS system is old, tired and costly and needs to be changed. It insists that FSS functions remain funded and be "provided" by the government at no charge to pilots. But it's less concerned whether those manning the phones and consoles at FSS stations are unionized government employees. "The use of outside resources for FSS functions is not unprecedented," AOPA notes in its position statement,  referring to the DUAT system in which private contractors provide weather information directly to pilots. AOPA says it's working with the FAA and NAATS toward modernization of the system. "AOPA recognizes the current FSS system is in serious jeopardy and that there may be better ways of doing business." We'll see soon what NAATS has to say about that.