Tuesday, June 05, 2007


An apology to those who've commented.

Something we didn't realize is that comments to this blog have been placed on a 'hold' awaiting 'moderation.' We're not sure when that began, since we initially set this blog to publish all comments as they are made.

Today we published all that were awaiting disposition.

Our fault...and apologies.


The Dam Bursts

One could say that the AOPA has changed its view of contracted Flight Service from ‘cheerleader’ to ‘buyer’s remorse.’ Let’s take a look at the chronology.

AOPA President Phil Boyer waxed enthusiastic about the contracting of Flight Services almost from the very start, based on a fear than any ‘unbid’ future government forms of the Service would involve user-fees. Once Lockheed Martin won the contract, Mr. Boyer could hardly contain his enthusiasm, declaring “all I can say is, ‘Wow!’” (3/05). Our opinion at the time seems to be rather prescient, if we do say so ourselves:

"Now we’re certain that LM showed Mr. Boyer some wonderful bells and whistles when they briefed him on the equipment they’ve created for FSS use, and there’s little doubt that what he saw is better than what most FSSs have now (aside from OASIS that is in a few stations). But this would be true of any of the five bidders. What we need to realize is that Mr. Boyer has no experience at all delivering air traffic services or using any such equipment to brief pilots. We should largely dismiss his “wow” comment as uninformed and inexpert.

Let us be clear; no Air Traffic Controller currently certified to provide flight services to pilots had input on the LM system or has seen it in action. In fact one could assert that Mr. Boyer saw little more than ‘vaporware’, an untested beta version of a system that has yet to be approved for use or even compatible with the current National Airspace System databases." (7/26/05)

Mr. Boyer’s stance never wavered, promising that “the consolidation of these facilities should not impact the level of service pilots receive” (9/29/05).

The first indication that things weren’t going quite as promised was AOPA’s admission that “Some members may not agree, but overall, Lockheed Martin has earned a B+ so far for its operation of the flight service station (FSS) system…” (8/23/06). Nevertheless, the best possible face was put in the “modernization” as facilities closed (2/26/07).

But as facilities closed and the predicted (at least by us) weaknesses began to surface, AOPA could no longer whitewash the facts from general aviation pilots. Admitting to ‘frustration,’ AOPA acknowledged that too many pilots were experiencing problems with the new system (4/25/07).

The ‘negative vibes’ began to mount and AOPA had to fully admit to “Long hold times. Disconnects. Lost flight plans” (5/4/07). Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs said that “This is not the level of service pilots expect.” This is the same Andy Cebula that in July of 2005 stated that “Regardless of who provides the service, pilots need and deserve much better than what they're getting now.” We chided Mr. Cebula’s spin of the A-76 process (8/2/05) and he should be reminded of his misplaced optimism.

Inevitably, Mr. Boyer had to face reality:

“In short, the FS21 (twenty-first century) system is in crisis and failing pilots. Based on the hundreds of complaints that AOPA has received in the past month, it is clear that the technical and operational problems plaguing FS21 are now affecting safety.” (5/11/07)

It’s a reality that we predicted on 10/4/05:

“Our position remains unchanged…that pilot contacts are likely to be longer due to 'cover your rear' concerns, and with a slashed workforce of diluted expertise and promised metrics (not yet fully revealed), Mr. Boyer’s dream of cheap, fast, personal, local, expert service is not likely to be realized. One or more of those will have to give.”

And in his most recent missive, Mr. Boyer stated that “…while some teething pains could be expected during such a radical transformation of an antiquated system, the problems have deteriorated recently from inconvenient to dangerous.” To emphasize the point a graphic was added to the story, a frustrated pilot staring at a phone.

There’s even a blog to chronicle the day-to-day soap opera.

Sorry, but we just can’t resist the obvious…we told you so.

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