The folks who work for Lockheed Martin Flight Services recently issued a list of the Top 10 things they wish pilots knew.
And with the recent announcement that the company is closing its Flight Service Stations in Columbia, Mo., Honolulu, Kankakee, Ill., Lansing, Mich., Nashville, Seattle, and St. Petersburg, Fla., beginning in February, knowing what’s on the list could help pilots get the kind of service they need to fly safely.
#10: A pilot profile will save you time. The next time you call the 800-WX-BRIEF line, spend a little extra time and set up your profile. You’ll be asked a few questions, and the next time you get a briefing or file a flight plan the specialist will be able to access this information easily – which saves you time by not repeating consistent information such as your aircraft home base and color of aircraft. Provide your cell, home or office number and the next time you call we can look your profile up with this number. You can also code a common last name such as Smith135 for faster retrieval. Let the briefer know what special identifier you want to use for your name and it will be entered in the system.
#9: The FAA requires FSS to get background information prior to providing a weather briefing. Many pilots get upset that the specialists ask for so much information before providing a weather briefing, but the FAA requires this data.
#8: There are no fines for not closing a VFR flight plan. Many pilots are under that impression and, as a result, do not file flight plans. FSS officials say they would rather you file a plan and forget to close it, than to not file a flight plan at all. You would get assistance much quicker if something were to happen on your flight.
#7: Know when to request an abbreviated briefing. The purpose of an abbreviated briefing is to provide you with specific items you have requested to update a standard briefing or mass disseminated information. If you ask for more than two items, they are required by the FAA to ask if you want a standard briefing. If you ask for an updated briefing, just let them know what time you had your last standard briefing. If it was just a couple of hours ago, an abbreviated briefing will provide anything new.
#6: FSS officials appreciate your pilot reports. Pilot reports provide an excellent look at actual conditions. This data advises the National Weather Service and other pilots that weather and adverse conditions are as forecasted, improved or maybe worsened since forecasts were issued. The FAA has put strict measures on the accuracy of pilot reports entered into the system and any error is viewed by the FAA as a failure. As a result, when you are ready to file a report, FSS officials recommend that you allow them to prompt you on the elements to get your report quickly and accurately.
#5: Take your time when talking to a specialist. Do not rush when requesting a briefing or filing your flight plan. Always feel free to ask questions about any item of the briefing.
#4: Lockheed Martin specialists do not have direct access to flight plans not filed with Flight Services. VFR flight plans filed with other vendors (such as DUATs) are sent to Lockheed Martin only for activation. If you need to change a routing, add a stop or make other changes, contact the vendor directly or re-file your flight plan with the FSS.
#3: Use Zulu or UTC time. 5 p.m.in Boston is not the same as 5 p.m. in Seattle. Different time zones are difficult to keep up with, but Zulu or UTC time is always the same. [Time Conversion to Zulu or UTC Time: Eastern Standard Time+5=UTC; Central Standard Time+6=UTC; Mountain Standard Time+7=UTC; Pacific Standard Time+8=UTC; Alaska Standard Time+9=UTC; Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time+10=UTC; Subtract 1 hour for daylight saving time.]
#2: Be aware of your location. When calling on your cell phone, recognize the noise level and step away into a quieter area, if at all possible. Even with advanced filtering systems, distractions from background noise often occur.
#1: They never forget they’re working for you. Besides being available 24/7, Lockheed Martin FSS officials note they provide aviation safety seminars at many forums throughout the country, as well as provide informational exhibits at trade shows and pilot weather briefers at major events.
For more information: 800-WX BRIEF (800-992-7433) or AFFS.com.