Flight Service Alaska

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
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Hello, I recently washed out of the tower at a level 7 up-down. The NEST decided to retain me at a Flight Service facility. Juneau, Fairbanks, and Kenai are the 3 facilities on my list. Note that these facilities are FAA and not Lockheed Martin.

I have no idea what to expect. Besides the job description and daily duties, what are the major similarities and differences between FSS and ATC? Is it a viable temporary option if I want to try to get back into ATC? What is the payscale?
 

Trebork2

Rookie
Nov 24, 2012
39
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6
Flight service pay scale is in the back of the slate book.

Go to Kenai. Juneau is too expensive to live and Fairbanks is too cold.

I know a few controllers that have washed out and gone to flight service for a few years then got a second chance at controlling. But that was years ago, not sure if it works that way anymore.

It'll be a good home while you figure out your next step and an ok living if you decide to stay put.


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ADub

Senior Member
Mar 8, 2015
278
2
18
Flight service pay scale is in the back of the slate book.

Go to Kenai. Juneau is too expensive to live and Fairbanks is too cold.

I know a few controllers that have washed out and gone to flight service for a few years then got a second chance at controlling. But that was years ago, not sure if it works that way anymore.

It'll be a good home while you figure out your next step and an ok living if you decide to stay put.
Believe it or not... but Kenai's winters are worse than Fairbanks. Fairbanks gets cold (-50) but Kenai is right behind (at -35). The difference being, those temperatures are rare... and to top it off, Kenai is worse off at -35 than Fairbanks is at -50 because Kenai is humid and very windy. When Fairbanks gets wind, it pushes the temperatures up to 12-25 (above zero). -50 with the air still is easy to dress warm against, -35 with a 20knot wind is impossible to dress warm for... 3 layers of jackets and you'll still feel the wind stabbing you with knives.

If you are married, do *NOT* pick Kenai. Your spouse will have a hard time finding work in Kenai. Kenai's population is below 8,000 people and the place is a ghost town outside of the summer tourist season. And in some ways, Kenai is actually more expensive than Fairbanks.

I live in Fairbanks and spent an entire winter in Kenai. I will take Fairbanks' winter every year over another in Kenai.
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
31
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Any updates? Have you gotten to a facility yet?
Yes, I made it to Kenai in July. Had to go through Flight Service Academy which was August thru December. Will be fully certified within the next month or so.

Kenai was a great choice. Fairbanks would probably be a good alternative though.
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
31
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Believe it or not... but Kenai's winters are worse than Fairbanks. Fairbanks gets cold (-50) but Kenai is right behind (at -35). The difference being, those temperatures are rare... and to top it off, Kenai is worse off at -35 than Fairbanks is at -50 because Kenai is humid and very windy. When Fairbanks gets wind, it pushes the temperatures up to 12-25 (above zero). -50 with the air still is easy to dress warm against, -35 with a 20knot wind is impossible to dress warm for... 3 layers of jackets and you'll still feel the wind stabbing you with knives.

If you are married, do *NOT* pick Kenai. Your spouse will have a hard time finding work in Kenai. Kenai's population is below 8,000 people and the place is a ghost town outside of the summer tourist season. And in some ways, Kenai is actually more expensive than Fairbanks.

I live in Fairbanks and spent an entire winter in Kenai. I will take Fairbanks' winter every year over another in Kenai.
Not exactly accurate. I haven't seen lower than -20 this winter. The winter here in Kenai is totally tolerable. I'm from the South and have never experienced cold weather. I haven't had any issues here thus far.

Soldotna is right down the road from Kenai. The combination of the two towns is really nice. There are several specialists here who have had the opportunity to leave but love the area too much, but admittedly it's not for everyone.

Pros and cons to both Kenai and Fairbanks.
 

jimmydee

Junior Member
Jan 8, 2014
98
2
8
So whats the word on Alaska FSS employees being eligible to ERR into a control position? Last I heard, FSS was not eligible for it, but they were "in discussions" to gain that ability, however the rumor was that the discussions weren't going anywhere and it seemed like a pipe dream. Any updated on that?
 

j_one_s

Rookie
Dec 13, 2013
71
0
6
Pshh
If anyone still reads this...I got questions. I've been trying to get into ATC, no such luck yet, but I applied to the ots Alaska FSS bid over a year ago, and got an offer a few days ago. I accepted. Duty station is Juneau. I know, Expensive, but that's what they offered me.
I'm not in the position to be turning my nose up at a federal job. And I KIND OF like Alaska, ...i went to school in Anchorage. Currently an RPO at a center.

My questions:
How much did you get in per diem at the academy in kenai?

Where did you live in kenai? What did you pay? I imagine it could be hard to find a decent place offering a 4 month lease.

Realistically, How long after arriving at Juneau can I cert? The HR lady that I talked to was hesitant to even give me ball park figures.

Juneau... If any of you know a good place in Juneau or someone that may be wanting someone to rent a room to a desperate and rather good looking young man lol, I would appreciate a heads up.

HR said they had a class in February-ish and one in June-ish. I'm writing this in November 2018...hoping to get in the February class, but I have to go through ALL the clearance/medical/mmpi shit. So I doubt that will happen, but after sending back the TOL, I'm getting some clearance paperwork and they've already scheduled me for drug testing in 3 days. So maybe this will move faster than ATC, especially since faa hasn't started any medicals for this upcomng batch of ots controllers yet.

If there's anything else you think I should know, I am ALL EARS! I will take all the help I can get.
Thanks.
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
31
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6
Supposedly, new information will be presented this month in regards to ERRs for FSS employees. I have been told it is "good news" from a NATCA representative. However, I am always cautiously optimistic, so we shall see what they mean by "good news".
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
31
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6
Per diem depends on time of year. I didn't get per diem (was based in Kenai so ineligible); however, my classmates were getting around $180/day in the summer and closer to $130/day in the fall and winter. Several academy students came to AK, collected their per diem, and promptly quit after completing the Academy. Not saying they only showed up for per diem; they may have had other reasons for leaving.

Kenai and Soldotna have lots of places available to rent in winter and spring. Summer and Fall rentals are a little harder to find and much more expensive. Depending on quality, you can find rentals between $800 and $1500 per month. If you want something reasonably nice, expect to pay closer to $1200 per month. I recommend checking their local FB groups. Also check Craigslist and Airbnb. Alternatively, you could check out rentals in Nikiski and Sterling; I don't recommend it, because it's not much cheaper and it's a longer drive.

After completing the Academy, I'd guess between 3 and 6 months to fully certify at Juneau. Closer to 3 months if you work hard. This is just a guess based on rough averages at Kenai.

Other things to note.. Some FSS specialists take their jobs very seriously. Don't make fun or degrade their role in aviation. I've seen it done, and it can get heated quickly. Also, the path from FSS to ATC is very unsure; it seems unlikely that they'll ever let OTS FSS employees ERR to ATC. Finally, remember to keep a good attitude and work hard, especially during training; it makes the job more enjoyable and you'll certify quicker.
 

j_one_s

Rookie
Dec 13, 2013
71
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Pshh
Awesome! Thank you! I figured the seasons would dictate cost and availability. I guess worst case scenario, I'll have to Craigslist/Airbnb it for a decent room to rent.

I'm not surprised they left after the academy, they probably got the idea from classmates in OKC. I knew multiple people who knew they wouldn't pass, but just rode it out for per diem. Even if that's the sole reason, I guess I can't blame them....it's a just waste of everyone's time.

That cert time sounds pretty sweet. I was kind of worried id be stuck at D1 or D3 pay for a year +.

Thanks for the heads up about the respect thing. I've heard some similar stories. I think with fss being run so poorly in the lower 48, people have a misrepresented idea of FAA FSS.

I've heard the same thing in regards to the EER to ATC. I wasn't banking on anything like that. I'm 28, been turned down for ATC over and over, been referred but never get a tol. Anyways, faa fss seemed like a respectable federal job, where I can still utilize my education.
It's interesting how things have worked out, I flew into Homer with a controller I was renting from , while I was in school, and I wanted to check out the FSS station there. I walked away pretty impressed. Seemed like a pretty good job.

2 more questions, if I may. How does the fss academy compare to atc academy in terms of workload, stress and pressure? And are fss specialists allowed to do fam flights?
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
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Kenai in Academy is a breeze. Comparable to OKC ATC Academy Basics. You can make it through with minimal effort, but I highly advise you to take it seriously. It just doesn't serve you to come in and give low effort or have a bad attitude.

As far as your cert time, that estimate was based on things going smoothly. Remember that things usually move slowly within the FAA. You may have to sit at Juneau for your first couple of months and await an academy class in Kenai. You may finish at the academy and return to Juneau, only to discover you have to wait a few weeks for training due to some random mishap or something. So, it's best not to bank on everything proceeding according to plan. The FAA has a way of messing you around.

Homer FSS is very different from Juneau FSS, when it comes to work. Homer workload is almost entirely giving airport advisories. Juneau will mostly be weather briefings. A better comparison to Juneau will be Kenai FSS.
 

WooPig

Rookie
Apr 25, 2017
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Yes, fam flights are allowed. I was able to fam to Middleton Island before my academy class got started.
 

j_one_s

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Dec 13, 2013
71
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Pshh
Fantastic, thank you. That's interesting. The way hr made it sound, I would go to Kenai first before going to Juneau. But I'm ots, so I suppose if I went to FSS via atc and the nest, I would sit in Juneau till a class date in kenai.

Haha, yeah I'm sure everything won't be completely seamless. But it's still GOT to better than what some center trainees are going through, sitting in academics for a year, at D1 pay😂...I think, lately, that's just where my head has been in terms of certing.
 

WooPig

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Apr 25, 2017
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The way hr made it sound, I would go to Kenai first before going to Juneau. But I'm ots, so I suppose if I went to FSS via atc and the nest, I would sit in Juneau till a class date in kenai.
Many academy students had stories of HR telling them one thing and the folks at the academy telling them another. Several people were misinformed about their academy start date. You'll find that HR and facility management don't always communicate well with each other.
 

j_one_s

Rookie
Dec 13, 2013
71
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Pshh
Ohhh haha great. Maybe next week I'll give Juneau a jingle to get a better idea. I called them back when I applied. Talked to one guy, Maurice?... He seemed pretty nice and informative.
 

twinottercmk

Newcomer
Aug 14, 2013
23
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1
@j_one_s,
Where did you go to school?

Does anyone know when FSS might put out another Alaska bid? How do those of you that hold the position like the job?