For Flight Service Stations, Future Is Now

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Lengthy Process Nearing Decision Time...

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was at a Flight Service Station in Mississippi last week, to talk with the staff about the current bidding process that could change federal employees to contract workers. "It's going to be a challenging time," Blakey told the Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth. "We don't know whether it is something that ultimately will be staffed by federal specialists or something that would be staffed by specialists in the area but under private contract. That decision will be made in a couple of months," Blakey said. Bidders for the contract include the agency's own employees in partnership with Harris Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. The FAA wants the bidder to cut costs by at least 22 percent from the current $502 million annual tab. Blakey said a decision will be announced between Jan. 1 and March 17. The FAA could also decide to continue to operate the FSSs itself.

The FSS is a primary source of official aviation weather, and provides other flight-planning services to pilots. FSSs coordinate VFR search-and-rescue services, provide orientation service to lost aircraft, maintain continuous weather broadcasts on selected navigational aids, and issue and cancel Notices To Airmen. The general aviation community makes up the lion's share of traffic at these facilities; however, military and commercial pilots are also frequent customers. The lucky bidder would operate 61 automated Flight Service Stations in the U.S., but Alaska is not included in the package.