Announcement Surprises A LOT Of Pilots
Lockheed Martin dropped a bomb October 15, announcing it will
close five satellite flight service stations early next year.
The company --
which took over the entirety of FSS services,
for better or worse, in October 2005 -- told the Aircraft Owners
and Pilots Association a reduction in the amount of general
aviation flying is directly responsible for the move, as fewer
calls are coming in to its facilities. Improvements made throughout
the FSS network have also streamlined operations, Lockheed
Most of the stations to be closed February 1 are in the west --
Oakland, San Diego, Denver, and Albuquerque. Macon, GA also will be
closed. Lockheed Martin says it can maintain the same level of
service because its system routes calls to specialists
knowledgeable about the particular flight area, regardless of where
the specialist might be physically located.
Most calls are routed to one of three hubs in Ashburn, VA; Fort
Worth, TX; and Prescott, AZ. These hubs already handle all
in-flight and flight data functions.
Despite those assurances, the news did not sit well with AOPA
President Phil Boyer. "We are extraordinarily displeased that the
FAA, which is supposed to be managing this contract, did not
consult with its 'customers' before allowing this," Boyer said.
"AOPA believes that any time there is a major change in the
system, the users should be consulted first, whether it be a VOR
decommissioning, tracon consolidation, or changes to airspace. With
no advance notice, we can certainly understand why some of our
members will be incensed at this news."
also pledged the pilot advocacy organization would keep the
pressure on the FAA to ensure that service to pilots does not
degrade because of the closures. FAA senior management has told
AOPA that it wants to know about any issues or problems pilots may
encounter flight service.
"We want to work with AOPA to ensure that pilots get the level
of service required in the contract," one official said. The FAA
noted that since the closures won't occur until February 1, 2009,
there is time to make adjustments.
Boyer said the burden of proof lies on Lockheed's shoulders.
"Lockheed Martin's decision to close these five facilities may make
business sense, but we won't know until we've had a chance to
analyze it and talk with our pilot members," he said. "But if there
is any degradation of service, we'll raise all kinds of trouble,
even if we have to go back to Congress."
Ironically, this unexpected announcement comes almost one year
to the day after
Congress held hearings critical of FAA's oversight of the
Lockheed Martin contract.
FMI: www.afss.com, www.aopa.org, To report an FSS-related
problem or complaint, call 888-FLT-SRVC