AVmail: Dec. 5, 2005

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Reader mail this week about flight service, Airbus ADs, controller pay negotiations and more.

FAA Takes Credit?

I am sure glad to hear that the Teflon FAA has found something to be responsible for -- all those safe flights (NewsWire, Nov. 28). Well, at least I'm glad for the smile it brings. Allow me to state the obvious: Credit goes to those individual cockpit crews and especially those individual, hard-working mechanics who are conscientious and dedicated enough to do their jobs right no matter what their management and government rains down on them. How many of us have seen a government man on the ramp or in the hanger at O'Hare in the middle of the night?

The FAA should stick to their usual bullet-dodging, as in the recent Alaska Airlines fiasco. Taking credit for safety is a risky venture, in an industry where the Fates or Mother Nature can swat you back to humility at any time without even breaking a sweat.

Pilot to Mechanics: Thanks, guys.

In order to avoid a visit from people I haven't seen in years, I guess this one better be ...

Name Withheld by Request

AD On A320 Landing Gear

Your dismissive tone regarding the "made for TV" landing and the fact that other A320 emergency landings have gone unfilmed would seem to negate the positive impact that TV media can bring to this admittedly rare aircraft malfunction that is nevertheless important to a concerned flying public (NewsWire, Nov. 28).

If this issue was "over-exposed" in the case of JetBlue, perhaps it's worth noting that this TV extravaganza might have been a pivotal event that shamed the FAA into acting sooner than it might otherwise have done. Despite a media-hating JetBlue pilot, the over-exposure of the JetBlue event leading to an arguably faster AD response might just have been the key to preventing a future occurrence with a less-desirable outcome. Please refresh my memory on how that might be bad.

Chuck Biddlecom

Lockheed Flight Service Stations

I recently experienced some poor, unprofessional service from the Macon Automated Flight Service Station. As I searched the Web for their contact information (I know I've been on their site before), I noticed that the Lockheed Martin takeover was effective October 4 and the AFSS Web site has been taken down.

Naturally, Lockheed Martin has no AFSS Web site I can find, and they don't mention it anywhere on their corporate Web site except to post the press release saying they've won the contract. This lack of transparency is exactly what I expected when I heard that the AFSS was going private. I'm wondering if any readers out there have experienced problems since the takeover and if they've been able to contact someone about it.

In case anyone cares, here are the two situations I faced in consecutive days of flying:

1. Filed a multi-leg IFR flight plan from Hunter Army Airfield (SVN) in Savanna, Ga., to Augusta (Ga.) Regional Airport (AGS) and back. The AGS Approach controller said there was no return leg in the system and that we needed to contact Macon Radio on a specific freq. The guy who answered the radio was rude from the beginning, asking why I was talking to him and why I selected that freq. After some painful minutes on the radio re-filing the same flight plan point by point, the AFSS attendant concluded with, "If you'd file your flight plans correctly on the ground this wouldn't have happened."

2. Next night departed SVN VFR on a Saturday with the tower closed. Confirmed with Base Ops before takeoff that they don't open VFR plans; only AFSS does. Contacted Macon Radio to activate and was told, "Tower normally activates VFR flight plans at military fields. Don't you know that?" I informed him that the tower was closed and that Base Ops told me to contact him, and he said, "Fine, I'll call Ops and let them know."

If I'm on the ground and calling 1-800-WXBRIEF, I'll hang up if I hear that I got Macon.

Ted Anderson

Lockheed Martin Replies:

I want to thank AVweb for the opportunity to address Lockheed Martin's commitment to providing outstanding service to our pilot customers. Lockheed Martin has been responsible for flight services for two months. We have begun a revitalization program designed to improve services to pilots. Included is inaugurating a process for capturing complaints within our performance tracking system, determining what happened at the facility level, taking corrective action wherever needed and getting back with each pilot on the resolution. This particular problem [from Mr. Anderson] is undergoing fact-finding at Macon AFSS as this is written. Pilots can help obtain a prompt resolution if they will furnish the aircraft tail number, date of occurrence and location.

Positive and negative feedback can be communicated directly to the flight service station providing service, to our headquarters in Washington, D.C., and to aviation associations such as AOPA. We will be distributing feedback forms to aviation activities such as FBOs and flight schools.

The FAA did take down individual flight service Web sites. We are working to institute one flight service Web site. We believe this will allow us to keep the information more current and relevant to the new operation. That Web site will have a feedback function direct to our Quality Assurance staff. Feedback can be input at the facility level by calling the toll-free, 866-number for the desired facility or by calling our Quality Assurance Manager at 202-646-5755. Either contact will be given prompt attention.

We expect nothing short of professional communications that deliver high-quality service to pilots. If that does not happen we want to hear from you. We will take prompt corrective action.

Dan Courain
Flight Services Program Manager, Lockheed Martin


AVweb wrote (NewsWire, Dec. 1):

"The FAA says controller pay has gone up 74 percent since the last contract, in 1998."

And the controllers are complaining? I wish my salary had gone up 74% since 1998. Now they want 5.6% a year for the next 4 years. Gee, I'd like that too, but somehow I doubt my employer will be so generous.

Ghery Pettit

AVweb Replies:

NATCA has sent AVweb a reply to Mr. Pettit that has been published as an ATIS editorial.

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.