Beginning later this year, the FAA is scheduled to start decommissioning remote communications outlets (RCO) used by Flight Service Stations in the conterminous U.S., Hawaii, and Puerto Rico to communicate with aircraft in flight. Based on the comments the agency received to a 2016 notice of proposed rulemaking, the FAA has decreased the number of RCOs planned for decommissioning from the proposed 666 to 641, which includes 404 dedicated RCOs and 237 outlets co-located with VORs.
The FAA maintains a network of more than 2,100 RCOs that pilots can use to obtain weather briefings, file flight plans and receive numerous other services. In its final policy determination, the FAA noted that the outlets include “duplicate, overlapping and seldom used frequencies.” A Mitre study done for the agency concluded that as many as 666 frequencies could be removed and the remaining frequencies would still provide between 93 and 100 percent coverage between 1,000 and 5,000 feet msl.
Additionally, the FAA estimates that, by reducing radio coverage, the agency could save approximately $2.5 million annually in maintenance costs alone. Frequencies in Alaska and those designated for emergency or military use are not included in this reduction program. Notams will be issued as each frequency is decommissioned.