Lockheed Martin Cites Lower Demand In FSS Closures, AOPA Responds

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Lockheed Martin announced Oct. 15 that five satellite flight service stations will be closing in February and AOPA was quick to take exception with the way the change in service was made. "We are extraordinarily displeased that the FAA, which is supposed to be managing this contract, did not consult with its 'customers' before allowing this," AOPA President Phil Boyer said. The FAA told AOPA it wants to work with the association to ensure service meets its contract requirements. But Boyer expressed concern that "some of our members will be incensed" upon notification of the non-discussed closures. For its part, Lockheed Martin said that the closures are the result of improvements to the nationwide network coupled with a reduction in the amount of general aviation pilots seeking use of the FSS system. Reasons for that reduction were not addressed. The specific stations targeted for closure are Oakland, San Diego, Denver, Albuquerque and Macon (Georgia) and Lockheed Martin says incoming calls will be routed to specialists who, regardless of their physical location, are knowledgeable about the particular flight area.

Today, most of those specialists are located in Ashburn, Va.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Prescott, Ariz., where all in-flight and flight data functions are currently routed. None of the parties involved made any inferences that other factors like modern electronic resources available to pilots (in-cockpit near real-time weather services like XM weather), or pilot dissatisfaction with flight service station performance, were yet contributors to a significant reduction in pilots' use of the service.