Flight Service

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
I am a Lockheed Martin Flight Service Specialist and this is for controllers who ponder why flight service does some of the things we do.

Tower Light Notams = We all know how annoying these things are. We hate having to coordinate these things with air traffic just as much as controllers hate us calling them with these. Unfortunately the FAA requires us to do this and very closely monitors this. We are constantly fighting with the FAA to drop the coordination requirement on these.

IFR flight plan amendments = We dont have FDIO so we have no way of ammending anything on any IFR flight plans 30min or less prior to departure as they leave our system and go into the NAS system. Therefore we have to call FD at the centers and tracons to make amendments. This also means we cant amened info on active IFR plans. Several times I have had aircraft call me up in the flight levels requesting amendments. While it would be nice to do for ATC since they are quite busy we can't since we dont have FDIO. I wish we did have it, becauase it would make things easier for all of us.

Cant reach the right person looking for a clearance = Lockheed has 3 hubs, Prescott which handles the whole western 1/3 of the US, Dallas which handles the central 1/3, and DC which handles the eastern 1/3. Each hub has AOR's which handle several states. Flight Data recieves the calls from pilots for these. However each AOR has several flight data people. The easiest thing to do is just say the airport and callsign and we will find who has the pilot on the line and have that specialist pick up the line you are on.

Lost radar and or radio contact on IFR or IFR aircraft didnt cancel FP = Flight Service is not responsible for IFR aircraft and is technically only obligated to help you find them once an ALNOT is issued. Now, personally I help ATC out right away by digging through our database as we often have pilot info from briefings they requested and we have the phone numbers to just about everywhere. Some specialists however will tell you they wont do anything untill an ALNOT is issued. Its not that they are lazy, but that they are fearful. Once they begin helping you they are now partly responsible.

A bit about me. I am a commercial pilot and worked as a controller for a short time with the FAA. I am young (early 20's) and went to college for aeronautics. My plan was to do air traffic. However the low pay was too much of a burden. I was assigned a level 11 ATC facility and make more money in flight service than I would as a CPC there. Pretty sad isn't it. Plus I work with great people and got to pick the schedule I wanted with no problems. Years ago I would have laughed if someone said I would work flight service. It really is a job very much misunderstood. It gets crazy busy and can be very challenging and stressful. In the end I actually ended up liking flight service better.
 

JosueZQ8

Senior Analyst
Feb 18, 2009
836
3
18
Amherst, OH
I've always wondered what all a job with FSS entails. We hear of people graduating from a CTI program, getting a job with FSS while their waiting to get hired by the FAA, then end up declining the offer because they like FSS too much!

FSS is deffinalty one of my backup plans...
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
Flight Service has several operational positions.

Preflight = Giving pilots weather briefings.
Flight Data = Issue and coordinate notams, search and rescue, input weather observations, manage military and civilian flight plans, and relay clearences and other atc info.
Inflight = Provide weather and aeronautical info to pilots in the air, relay clearances, take pilot reports, and file airborne flight plans.
EMU = Manage notams that come in via email from airports and ensure notams are being coordinated.
Flight Watch = Provide current weather info and take pilot reports
SAR Coordinator = make sure that VFR aircraft that are overdue are being searched for in a proper and timely manor.

If your looking to work your way up the ladder you can become a lead specialist, supervisor, quality assurance, traffic management, or even become management eventually.
 

JosueZQ8

Senior Analyst
Feb 18, 2009
836
3
18
Amherst, OH
So, if someone says..."I work at FSS", does that mean that they're proficient in all of these positions? Or is it a ladder system, and you start off in preflight and work your way up?
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
All of the positions I listed above are done by flight service specialists.
When you are hired you start out as a Level I Developmental. You begin training on flight data and preflight. Once you check out on preflight you being inflight. Once you are fully checked out on preflight, flight data, and inflight you are considered to be fully certified (FPL). In order to work flight watch you need 2 years FPL time and must take a 2 week weather course program and check out. You get trained on the EMU and SAR positions after you become an FPL.
 

JosueZQ8

Senior Analyst
Feb 18, 2009
836
3
18
Amherst, OH
So, essentially, it's a similar step by step training process like in ATC?

What's the pay scale like? I'm not asking you to post what you make lol, but I imagine you get raises as you go? Does it top out at a certain point?
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
At my facility starting pay for a Level I Developmental is $65,000.
Level II pay is $85,000.

The current rule is that you don't get level II pay until you have been with the company for 2 years. It used to be 1 year after being FPL that you got it. None the less $65,000 is a pretty good salary for someone coming in with no experience what so ever. I should mention there is a 10week academy in Prescott Arizona you have to go to first. You get paid travel expenses, per diem, and I believe they still give you a $2,000 moving bonus if your facility is more than 50 miles from your current residence.
 

JosueZQ8

Senior Analyst
Feb 18, 2009
836
3
18
Amherst, OH
WOW! That's VERY impressive!

How many locations are there around the country? I always heard around the airport I flew out of, that they were consolidating them and this that and the other?
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
They have been gradually consolidating. The hubs which are Prescott, Dallas, and Washington DC do all of the job functions I listed above. The satellite facilities just do preflight weather briefings with the exception of 2. The satellite sites are Honolulu, Seattle, Princeton Minnesota, Columbia Missouri, Kankakee Illinois, Lansing Michigan, Raleigh Duram North Carolina, St. Petersburg Florida, and Mimai. Honolulu and Miami still have flight data and inflight positions due to the unique traffic and geographical area. The hubs will always be there and have the most job diversity so I would apply to one of those if you ever decide to do flight service. The satellite sites have the potential danger of closing and then you will be left frantically trying to get into a hub.
 

noid

Curtis E. Carr
Jun 24, 2008
2,024
18
38
In a van down by the river.
The downside to Flight Service is there is no union. Some people think this is a good thing and this is exactly what LockMart wants you to think. Without that union, LockMart was able to layoff well qualified people without any repercussions and close facilities.

Why layoff so many people and not allow them to transfer to a hub when the DC hub is about 1/3 the capacity of what is needed? Because LM is scrambling to fix the financial crisis they put themselves into.

Most people in DC sit on Flight Data and Inflight. Preflight gets pawned off on the other eastern facilities and even *gasp* to the C-sites that are being phased out.

The benefits SUCK in flight service. You pay more money for less coverage than you would in the FAA. There is no retirement and they only pay 2-3% towards your 401k. The pay is set by the DOL and could go down if the DOL deems it. (again, a union would fix that).

Some think that 65k is great, but when you consider that two of the three hubs have an insane cost of living, that money goes away pretty fast for those with families.

For single people or people that do not get picked up by the FAA, Flight Service isn't a bad occupation, but it gets old unless you do inflight or flight watch. Preflight and FD get old quick.

I've been with the FAA and LockMart, and I thought the FAA sucked until I saw the disorganized business practices of LM. The pay will get fixed in the FAA, you get a retirement, and 5% match in TSP. End the end, the FAA will be a better career field.

LM isn't all bad. They will pay for college, but are very picky on the colleges they will pay for, but still a good thing. If you can get in the Ft. Worth hub, it's a sweet deal, but the staffing crisis in DC is crucial. The Prescott Hub is pretty nice and is fully staffed, but the cost of living is a little high.

I'd think hard about leaving the FAA for FSS. It seems great at first, but looks can be deceiving.

but hey, to each their own....
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
There is no doubt that the government offers much better benefits than the private sector. In the FAA you get a TSP (basically a 401k) plus a pension. The job can be very exciting and rewarding as well. The down side is that the only way to make any money is to work at a crazy busy facility Level 11 or Level 12. Some of those facilities are so backlogged with trainees people are stuck at around 40k for years. Flight service FPL pay is equivalent to an FAA level 11 facility with high locality. For those who want to work light to moderate traffic (level 5 - level 9 ) facilities you will be restricted to an FPL salary between 45k and 65k. For example, I was initially offered a level 6 tower job a few years back. Under the old FAA contract FPL pay there with locality was 80k. Under the new contract it was 50k with locality. Across the board pay grades were cut by 30k-40k.

I have hopes for the guys in air traffic that things will change. However its been years now and nothing has changed. Plus we now have a terrible economy which means any hopes of a better pay scale are most likely gone for the time being.
 

noid

Curtis E. Carr
Jun 24, 2008
2,024
18
38
In a van down by the river.
I have no doubt that classes will be starting back up in a few months. They need some cooling off time from the layoffs. The problem is that for all of the old FAA FSS people, LM has to pay above what the FAA pays based on the DOL. Out of the MANY ways of cutting their pay or reducing the amount of old FAA employees there are, LM decided in their infinite wisdom to just lay them off. HOWEVER, in order to fight an age discrimination lawsuit, they fired a handful of newhires as well. (Some of their "stated" reasons for doing this were hilarious)

I admit things have taken too long to resolve the current FAA situation, but I honestly feel things will change soon.

Making Level 2 pay takes 2 years from the academy. That has it's good points and it's bad points. Good: you don't have to worry about rushing to get qualified in order to get your raise so long as you do it before 2yrs. Bad: If you happen to get qualified rather quickly, then you get to sit there and make Level 1 pay for the next year or so.

The job was insanely easy and the pay was great. The problem that I see is that with new and younger pilots you will start to see less and less people using flight service. What are the majority of your calls? Student pilots and old pilots who prefer to hear what's going on out there.

The younger pilots don't call because they can get all of their information from the internet...just like LM does. There are a few ways to file flight plans online as well, so that takes away those calls. Am I saying flight service is going to disappear overnight? No. What I am saying is that it's an unstable career field based on technology and the newer pilots that aren't afraid to use that technology.

This can be said for ATC as well, but I highly doubt that it will be affected as greatly as FSS will.

Am I bitter with LM? Yes. Do I think things should have been handled differently? Yes. This has also opened my eyes to what I want. After talking with people I know up in DC, I'm glad I didn't take my offer to move to DC before the layoffs. Flight Service is an "okay" job, but like I said, it gets old. I'd much rather control airplanes. If this means I make less money at first, so be it. It's not ALL about the money if you find a job you enjoy.

All my best to those that prefer FSS to ATC. You can always look at it like one of my FSS instructors tried to tell us..."it's like you're controlling airplanes from the weather"...whatever it takes to enjoy the job, go for it.

E-mailing Missy takes too long, just call her. She is a very sweet person and one of the few genuine people in LM FSS.
 

Dale

Senior Member
Jun 19, 2008
216
3
18
Uniondale, Indiana
There is no doubt that the government offers much better benefits than the private sector. In the FAA you get a TSP (basically a 401k) plus a pension.
It is true that you get TSP, but most people (those in FERS) don't get any more pension than Social Security. Those under CSRS get a government pension, but their TSP has no fund matching from the FAA/Government.

.
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
Wow I didn't know that FERS was like that. I always thought it was a good deal, but apparently not as much as I thought. Lockheed gives us a 3% match into our 401k. Although with the stock market how it is, nobody is making any money in their retirement plan at the moment.
 

BoomerSooner77

I am rubber, you're glue.
Oct 8, 2008
1,399
24
38
Plano, TX
It is true that you get TSP, but most people (those in FERS) don't get any more pension than Social Security. Those under CSRS get a government pension, but their TSP has no fund matching from the FAA/Government.

.
Are you sure?

All the publications re: FERS I've been viewing indicate we'll get at least 34% of our high 3 average salary / annum for ATC. (that's the minimum based on 20 years) You also get a supplement to cover your Soc Sec payments until you are eligible for those. Am I missing something somewhere?
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
Hes just one of those typical "I am an air traffic controller and I am better than you" type of guys. Its those kind of people that have made a lot of FAA facilities unbearable to work at. I know a guy who was CPC at a center and resigned and said he would rather flip burgers than deal with the people there. Terminal is the way to go. People are much more laid back and easier to deal with. I'm not saying all center people are bad, but they have the most resignations and the most complaints from new hires. We had a group of 12 center trainees come to our facility asking about jobs, because the treatment and people at their center sucked so bad.
 

SnowAviation

Senior Member
Jan 29, 2009
292
3
18
Southern California TRACON
I am a Lockheed Martin Flight Service Specialist and this is for controllers
who ponder why flight service does some of the things we do.
Dude, I learned more about FSS in this one post than all my years in the FAA.
I do have some comments and questions, the FAA vs Lockheed Martin bitchfest notwithstanding.

Tower Light Notams = We all know how annoying these things are. We hate
having to coordinate these things with air traffic just as much as controllers
hate us calling them with these.
1.Tower Light NOTAMS: No big deal to me, what's a big deal is when we, or a
pilot, doesn't get an important NOTAM like what used to be called a Local
NOTAM. That is the biggest crime in the FSS system, not disseminiating L
NOTAMS. I see it over and over a pilot flies hundreds of miles only to find
out that the runway is closed or the airport lights are out and he was never
told. Any idea how this happens?

IFR flight plan amendments = We dont have FDIO so we have no way of
ammending anything on any IFR flight plans 30min or less prior to departure as
they leave our system and go into the NAS system. Therefore we have to
call FD at the centers and tracons to make amendments. This also means we
cant amened info on active IFR plans. Several times I have had aircraft call
me up in the flight levels requesting amendments. While it would be nice to
do for ATC since they are quite busy we can't since we dont have FDIO. I
wish we did have it, becauase it would make things easier for all of us.
2. IFR Flight Plan Amendments: Interesting information there too, I never knew exactly
how you guys inputted flight plans but assumed that you used FDIO.

Cant reach the right person looking for a clearance = Lockheed has 3 hubs,
Prescott which handles the whole western 1/3 of the US, Dallas which handles
the central 1/3, and DC which handles the eastern 1/3. Each hub has AOR's
which handle several states. Flight Data recieves the calls from pilots for
these. However each AOR has several flight data people. The easiest thing
to do is just say the airport and callsign and we will find who has the pilot on
the line and have that specialist pick up the line you are on.
3. The Right Specialist: Don't really understand that one, you talking about a
controller calling you to speak to a pilot or relay a clearance to a pilot? and what exactly
is an AOR?

Lost radar and or radio contact on IFR or IFR aircraft didnt cancel FP
= Flight Service is not responsible for IFR aircraft and is technically only
obligated to help you find them once an ALNOT is issued. Now, personally I
help ATC out right away by digging through our database as we often have
pilot info from briefings they requested and we have the phone numbers to
just about everywhere. Some specialists however will tell you they wont do
anything untill an ALNOT is issued. Its not that they are lazy, but that they
are fearful. Once they begin helping you they are now partly responsible.
4. Lost or Overdue IFR aircraft: Is there a Order or Notice that says, FSS shall
only assist in the saving of lives or money when the aircraft is overdue by more
than 30 minutes? Your attitude is great, but the attitude of others not helping find
a pilot who didn't cancel IFR or is overdue is placing other pilots in potential jeopardy
and is definitely consting them money. Aircraft are often holding awaiting the cancellation
of other aircraft's IFR, and I've personally seen two instances where the pilot didn't
cancel IFR and it turned out that they crashed near the airport. In one case the pilot
was in the plane 40 minutes before being found barely alive. Not the fault of the FSS in
this case but the potential is there. This attitude needs to change, finding overdue IFR
aircraft is a very time critical operation and shouldn't be pushed aside till an ALNOT is issued.