Open door policy: FSS and towers are open to pilots

Should Flight Service Stations and Air Traffic Control towers be open to pilots?

Yes, say FAA officials. But it took some doing to get that admission, as doors slammed shut after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Under the current Code Yellow threat alert, FSS are still open for walk-in briefings — unless there is a specific threat to that facility.

Pilots also should be allowed access to ATC facilities. That includes tours and Operation Raincheck programs, but access is dependent upon the availability of FAA personnel to conduct a tour. Operation Raincheck is an FAA educational program designed to familiarize pilots with the ATC system.

According to an FAA spokesman, it is up to each facility to determine the level of security required and individual policies when it comes to visitors. If someone looks suspicious, that person will probably not be let in, he said. Other facilities require visitors to supply their names in advance. In the case of control towers, it is up to the controllers union to determine if they want to allow visitors.

“Security has been a convenient excuse for slamming shut the door at some ATC facilities,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA’s senior vice president of government and technical affairs, “but we now know that it’s been just that — an excuse in most cases.

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