GA Pilots using Flight Service

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
I was curious as to weather GA pilots like to use flight service or if not, why? I would be interested in hearing what things you like or dislike about it and what you would like to see.

Most of the newer generation of specialists such as myself are pilots, many have commercial, multi-engine, and instrument ratings like myself. Therefore we know what its like to be in the cockpit and we are there to help you out. We have access to any weather info you need, approach plates, frequencies, airport info and diagrams, phone numbers, you name it. We can help you get around bad weather, find alternate routes and airports, and even make phone calls if traffic and workload permit.

I wanted to talk a bit about contacting flight service in the air, because there seems to be a lot of confusion out there on this.

Frequency 122.2 is the standard frequency for flight service everywhere and you can reach someone. However if your at high altitude you may light up 10 or more 122.2 outlets over several states. To aid us, just state your location so the right specialist can answer. If your at high altitude a specialist may ask you to switch to a discrete frequency that they will give you for that area. If you don't get a reply its most likely that we are talking to someone else. There is 1 specialist for every 2 states which means we monitor quite a few frequencies.

Flight Watch is frequency 122.0 and is flight service as well. As with calling radio they may ask you to switch to a discrete frequency. Flight watch works in the first row at the flight service hubs and inflight works in the second. Therefore the distance for example between Atlanta flight watch and Macon radio is about 3 feet lol.

Calling flight service over VOR's. Be sure to have your VOR volume turned up on your receiver. 9 out of 10 aircraft that call us can't hear us respond, because their VOR volume is turned down.

I know a lot of the pilots out there are used to dealing with their local flight service stations and local specialists. Even though stations have been consolidated we are all trained for Area's of Responsibility. As a pilot I am happy to get the opportunity to help other pilots out and keep them safe.
 

mjohn47

Senior Member
Jun 23, 2008
194
0
16
Holbrook, NY
To be honest I only call Flight Service if I need to file IFR less than 30 mins before I'd like to depart. I can get all my information from DUATs and if I need clarification on something I will call as well. For your run of the mill day it's DUATs though. No wait, no fuss, no "hmmm... I'm not sure what that is." Yeah, it's happened hahaha.
 

irishcarbomb

Epic Member
Dec 3, 2008
1,801
6
38
Houston, TX
i thought it was better before it was contracted out. though it has gotten much better. i have used both flight watch and fss from the air without issue and thinks its a valuable tool. however as stated above i will stick with duats for filing and wx unless im within 30mins.
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
I can understand where a lot of pilots are coming from in using Duats. To be honest, when I was in college I never called flight service either, I used Duats as well. I called for a briefing only when I was confused about something. I should explain why when Lockheed took over there seemed to be a lack of knowledge on some things. Over half the flight service workforce is age 20-25 right out of college practically. Nobody starts out an expert so that's why things were a bit glitchy at first. Things have improved because all of us young specialists now have 2-3 years of experience with our areas of knowledge. Also, flight service specialists used to have to learn only a 400 mile radius of their station. This affected both the new guys and old FAA guys. Now we must know an entire portion of the United States which encompasses thousands of airports and hundreds of navaids. It takes more time than it used to in order to become proficient, but we are all getting there.

I think it would be great to have an instant messaging ability so people could send questions via text on their blackberrys and so forth. That way we could communicate quickly and the information we talked about would be saved in text to look at later if you forgot.

I am glad to hear you have had a good experience with flight watch and radio. Just one note. Be careful when you file on Duats. Lots of pilots don't do it correctly and it never gets filed by them and sent to us. Be sure you get confirmation from Duats that it was filed.
 

Niagra19

"Murphy"
Sep 22, 2008
664
13
18
Phoenix
I call the FSS whenever the weather looks marginal as I'm driving to the airport. Granted in Phoenix it is usually clear, so its not all that often. There was a point when wait times were out of control. I once held for over an hour. Boy was I kicking myself for not checking duats before I left the house. But it hasn't been like that in well over a year. Generally the Lockheed guys are a lot more pleasant to deal with than before it was contrated out. Its like they actually care about customer service these days.
 

ATCtower

Epic Member
Oct 26, 2008
1,257
26
48
I call the FSS whenever the weather looks marginal as I'm driving to the airport. Granted in Phoenix it is usually clear, so its not all that often. There was a point when wait times were out of control. I once held for over an hour. Boy was I kicking myself for not checking duats before I left the house. But it hasn't been like that in well over a year. Generally the Lockheed guys are a lot more pleasant to deal with than before it was contrated out. Its like they actually care about customer service these days.
I completely agree that the Lockheed guys are much getter to deal with. It kinda surpirsed me though...

As for FSS, I will occasionally use it but not quite as much as some. There are a number of benefits to FSS, so there really is no reason not to.

My $.02
 

AFSS5602

Junior Member
Feb 19, 2009
128
1
18
Its good to know that people are experiencing good customer service. We all know when it comes to dealing with any government agency or employees, customer service can definitely be lacking. For example the DMV lol. Now that Flight Service is private there a lot lot higher standards on both service and behavior/attitude of specialists.
 

scope dope

the worst cpc you know
Feb 20, 2009
423
3
18
I call before every flight, CAVU or not.

Customer service has been fine, I do miss having guys with local knowledge though.

I rarely call from the air but I ALWAYS forget to mention what I'm listening on. Back in the old days they'd just transmit on all to get me back it sounds like.
 

1984warrior

Rookie
Jan 24, 2009
43
0
6
Minnesota
It was way better before they started closing all the local FSS and consolidating. Now a lot of times when you call you get someone who doesn't have a clue about your local area. They often just rattle off what I have already seen from wx sources online.
I like to call for NOTAMs and TFRs.
I do make my students call before every flight so they can get a second opinion. Otherwise, I am just as capable of figuring out the wx trend being in/from the local area, plus having duats access I can file online.
 

noid

Curtis E. Carr
Jun 24, 2008
2,024
18
38
In a van down by the river.
Yes, local knowledge suffers greatly now that they have closed a lot of the stations. It's kinda scary having airport advisories coming from a few states away.

The more computer friendly people become, the less they will rely on flight service.