Air Traffic Management System
Flight Service Station
Flight Service Stations (FSS) and Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS) are FAA air traffic facilities that provide valuable services to private pilots. They provide pilot briefings, en route radio communications and VFR search and rescue services. For example, a pilot is preparing a flight plan and needs weather flight information for the departure airport, the route she wants to fly and the destination airport at which she will land. She calls the local FSS provides information about her flight plans and asks for a briefing. The FAA specialists there provide her with the necessary information. FSS stations assist lost aircraft and aircraft in emergency situations. For example, if a private pilot becomes disoriented or loses his way during a flight, he can contact by radio a controller located in the flight service station. Based upon observations made by the pilot, the pilot’s filed flight plan and other navigation equipment, the FSS controller can re-direct the pilot back on course. If a pilot finds herself in an emergency situation and must make an unscheduled landing, the controller in the FSS can contact emergency services in that area and get assistance to the pilot quickly.
The FSS also relays ATC clearances, generates the recordings for its area’s Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). The FSS broadcasts aviation weather and National Airspace System (NAS) information. The Station receives and processes
Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plans for private pilots, and monitors NAVAIDS. In addition, at selected locations an FSS provides an En Route Flight Advisory Service (Flight Watch), gathers weather data, and issues airport advisories. The FSS also advises US Customs and Immigration of trans-border flights. There are15 Flight Service Stations (FSS) in the United States.
Just as electronics and new technology have updated the cockpit, modernization has come to the Flight Service Station. The Automated Flight Service Station is equipped with newer technology to better assist the Specialists there in providing Air Traffic services to pilots. There are 61 Automated Flight Service Stations (AFSS) in the United States.
The Aeronautical Information Manual states that “pilots-in-command, BEFORE BEGINNING A FLIGHT, shall familiarize themselves with all available information concerning that flight.”
Weather obtained from FSS locations are the primary source for obtaining preflight briefings and in-flight weather briefings. Pilots may walk into any FSS to review available aviation weather products and charts, or they may choose to use telephones or radio.
Three types of preflight briefings are available: the Standard Briefing, Abbreviated Briefing, and the Outlook Briefing. To properly tailor the briefing for a flight the briefer needs background information about the proposed flight.
- Type of Flight: VFR or IFR
- Aircraft Identification or Pilot's Name
- Aircraft Type
- Departure Point
- Estimated Time of Departure
- Estimated Time En Route
Background information is mandatory data for the weather briefer. If any of these nine items are missing, a briefer may be unable to properly tailor the briefing to the specific flight the pilot has planned.
For more information about the 3 types of preflight briefings, click here