Flight Services Here To Stay?

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Although calls to Automated Flight Service Stations are decreasing steadily, the service they provide remains valuable, says Jim Derr, the program director of Lockheed Martin Flight Services. In a podcast interview with AVweb at Sun 'n Fun 2010, Derr said that despite the huge shift in communications, weather and avionics technology over the last decade, there are still times when that "personal touch" from a live briefer is invaluable. Although most if not all information a pilot needs is available online or through the panel, sometimes pilots don't get all the data they need for a flight. Briefers often notice those gaps and fill them, he said.

When Lockmart took over the service under contract from the FAA about five years ago, there were dire predictions about the effect of the consolidation of service planned by the company. There are now just six physical facilities where flight service specialists work but Derr said service is actually improving. "We're getting fewer complaints and we're even getting a few compliments," Derr said. He said there were a lot of changes in a short time and that caused some problems initially but the system is working well and the company is hitting its performance metrics.