As the crow flies, the distance between Baltimore and Newark is only about 160 mi. But during the height of thunderstorm season, when lines of towering cumulus march eastward–often erupting into wide, impenetrable walls of rain, turbulence and lightning–the distance can easily double, while travel times can triple.
Flight service station
There are many ways to gain access to information about airports and the services available there. Ac-U-Kwik’s printed pilot guides– and later its Web site–have traditionally been considered among the best. Now the company has refined and expanded its Web site (www.acukwik.com). Not only has more information been added, but now Ac-U-Kwik has sharpened its focus on international operations.
There is general agreement that the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (notam) system is a conduit for often confusing information of marginal value and hopelessly wedded to outdated technology. Funding to fix problems with the notam system, however, recently came through for the FAA’s notam office and changes are already under way.
Rumor has it the Bush Administration intends to sell off ATC to the highest bidder. As is the case with most rumors, there is a kernel of truth around which a mass of misunderstanding and misinformation has grown.
In response to ongoing flight service complaints, the FAA recently established a hotline ( FLT-SRVC [358-7782]) to track and manage issues with Lockheed Martin’s handling of the pilot resource. Pilots have reported long hold times, inaccurate or incomplete information and call routing to distant locales. The hotline allows crews to leave a message about their particular problem. Lockheed must respond to the complaint within 15 days.
Lockheed Martin, which took over operational control of most of the nation’s flight service network last year, is experiencing troubles with consolidation, AOPA asserts. As part of the 10-year, $1.8 billion contract, Lockheed is now in a seven-month consolidation process, during which it will merge 58 flight service stations into 16, along with three hubs.
Although the final outcome is yet unclear, the House of Representatives amended its $14.4 billion FAA appropriations bill last week to halt an FAA plan to turn over the operation of its Flight Service Stations to a private contractor. The amendment voids the February contract with Lockheed Martin, whereby 38 of the current 61 FSS facilities would be closed and 20 of the remaining 23 would be operated by the aerospace giant.
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has issued an order accepting the recommendation of a dispute resolution law judge to deny two legal protests over the competitive-sourcing initiative of Flight Service Stations.
The House Appropriations Committee has added a directive to a report on FAA funding for Fiscal Year 2005 that would require the agency to ensure that pilots continue to get the best possible flight briefing and en route information services without user fees.
The FAA last month chose Lockheed Martin from a field of five bidders to provide the services now offered by the agency’s 58 automated flight service stations in the continental U.S., Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Under a five-year contract that includes five additional option years, the agency expects to save $2.2 billion if it exercises all of the option years.