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Flight service station

Flight service station

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A Flight Service Station (FSS) is an air traffic facility that provides information and services to aircraft pilots
An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

 before, during, and after flights, but unlike air traffic control
Air traffic control
Air traffic control is a service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and in the air. The primary purpose of ATC systems worldwide is to separate aircraft to prevent collisions, to organize and expedite the flow of traffic, and to provide information and other...

 (ATC), is not responsible for giving instructions or clearances or providing separation. The people who communicate with pilots from an FSS are referred to as specialists rather than controllers
Air traffic controller
Air traffic controllers are the people who expedite and maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system. The position of the air traffic controller is one that requires highly specialized skills...

, although in the US, FSS specialists' official job title is air traffic control specialist - station.

The precise services offered by stations vary by country, but typical FSS services may include providing preflight briefings including weather and notices to airmen
NOTAM or NoTAM is the quasi-acronym for a "Notice To Airmen". NOTAMs are created and transmitted by government agencies and airport operators under guidelines specified by Annex 15: Aeronautical Information Services of the Convention on International Civil Aviation...

 (NOTAMs); filing, opening, and closing flight plan
Flight plan
Flight plans are documents filed by pilots or a Flight Dispatcher with the local Civil Aviation Authority prior to departure...

s; monitoring navigational aid
Navigational aid
A navigational aid is any sort of marker which aids the traveler in navigation; the term is most commonly used to refer to nautical or aviation travel...

s (NAVAIDs); collecting and disseminating pilot reports (PIREPs); offering traffic advisories to aircraft on the ground or in flight; relaying instructions or clearances from air traffic control; and providing assistance in an emergency. In many countries, flight service stations also operate at mandatory frequency airport
Mandatory frequency airport
An airport with a mandatory frequency , mandatory traffic advisory frequency or air/ground radio is an airport which does not have a control tower but still requires arriving and departing aircraft to communicate with other aircraft or a radio operator on a published frequency.Mandatory frequency...

s to help co-ordinate traffic in the absence of air traffic controllers, and may take over a control tower frequency at a controlled airport when the tower is closed.

In most cases, it is possible to reach flight service stations either by radio in flight, or by telephone on the ground. Recently, some countries, such as Canada and the United States, have been consolidating flight services into large regional centres, replacing former local flight service stations with remote communications outlet
Remote Communications Outlet
Remote Communications Outlets are remote aviation band radio transceivers, established to extend the communication capabilities of Flight Information Centres and Flight Service Stations ....

s (RCOs) connected to the centres.

Flight services in the United States

The United States Flight Service Station (FSS) national toll-free number is, 800-WX-BRIEF (+1-800-992-7433) and the service is free of charge both on the ground and in the air. The United States FSS common radio frequency is 122.2 MHz
The hertz is the SI unit of frequency defined as the number of cycles per second of a periodic phenomenon. One of its most common uses is the description of the sine wave, particularly those used in radio and audio applications....

. Although not all RCOs have 122.2 MHz, coverage should be available above 5000 ft (1,524 m) over most of the US. However, it is recommended to consult directories, charts or databases to find the discrete frequency of the nearest FSS outlet while in flight. Both FSS and ATC monitors the emergency frequency
Aircraft emergency frequency
The aircraft emergency frequency is a frequency used on the aircraft radio band reserved for emergency communications for aircraft in distress. The frequencies are 121.5 MHz for civilian, also known as International Air Distress and 243.0 MHz for military use, also known as Military Air...

, 121.5 MHz. During daytime and evening hours, FSS offers a service called flight watch
Flight watch
Flight Watch is the common name in the United States for an Enroute Flight Advisory Service dedicated to providing weather to and collecting from pilots while in flight.While U.S...

 on frequency 122.0 MHz and on discrete high altitude frequencies, offering a restricted set of FSS services (including en route hazardous weather updates and PIREPS). A few select locations in the conterminous 48 states have Airport Advisory Services (AAS) provided by FSS either full-time or during hours that a control tower
Control tower
A control tower, or more specifically an Air Traffic Control Tower , is the name of the airport building from which the air traffic control unit controls the movement of aircraft on and around the airport. Control towers are also used to control the traffic for other forms of transportation such...

 is closed. Most of the 17 FSS facilities in Alaska provide AAS, as most Alaska FSS locations do not have control towers. FSS in the US no longer monitor navigational aids, having re-routed the monitoring to either control towers or technical personnel.

On February 1, 2005, the Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 (FAA) awarded a contract for the services provided by the 58 FSSs in the conterminous 48 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, and Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 to the Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area....

 Corporation. Lockheed Martin Flight Services (LMFS) assumed responsibility for providing FSS flight services on October 4, 2005. With continued FAA oversight, LMFS delivers flight services according to the FAA's strict safety and service requirements. FSS services in the State of Alaska continue to be provided by FAA employess.

Each week, FSS specialists help provide a range of services to between 80,000 and 90,000 members of the general aviation
General aviation
General aviation is one of the two categories of civil aviation. It refers to all flights other than military and scheduled airline and regular cargo flights, both private and commercial. General aviation flights range from gliders and powered parachutes to large, non-scheduled cargo jet flights...

 community including corporate and private aircraft, and to a lesser extent, military and airlines.

FAA contractor Lockheed Martin Flight Services in 2010 operates three large 24-hour FSS hubs, one 24-hour satellite facility and two part-time satellite facilities. LMFS facilities are interconnected so as to provide continuous services at all locations, and provide backup if a site were to go down. Alaska FAA FSS facilities operate three 24-hour hub facilities and fourteen part-time and seasonal satellite facilities.

All United States FSS sites provide users of the United States National Airspace System
National Airspace System
The National Airspace System of the United States is one of the most complex aviation systems in the world — consisting of thousands of people, procedures, facilities, and pieces of equipment — that enables safe and expeditious air travel in the United States and over large portions of the world's...

  • Preflight, Inflight, operational and special services
  • En route communications
  • Search and rescue
    Search and rescue
    Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

     communications services
  • Emergency services including lost aircraft orientation
  • Preflight and inflight meteorological and aeronautical briefings
  • Airport Advisory Services in select locations
  • Weather observations (in Alaska)
  • Continuous automated broadcasts of hazardous weather advisories over select navigational radios
  • Development, translation, processing and coordination of aeronautical, meteorological and procedural information
  • Support of air shows, aviation conventions and other aviation events

Flight services in Canada

In Canada some FSS still monitor the frequency 126.7 MHz (the common en route frequency for broadcasts and traffic information in Canada) as well as 121.5 MHz, the emergency frequency. However, Canadian FSS are gradually phasing out the use of 126.7 MHz for FISE (Enroute Flight Information)and are instead utilizing discrete frequencies. This is to decrease the frequency congestion often experienced on 126.7. These frequencies are found in the CFS Canada Flight Supplement
Canada Flight Supplement
The Canada Flight Supplement is a joint civil/military publication and is a supplement of the Aeronautical Information Publication . It is the nation's official airport directory...

. Pilots can reach a flight service station toll-free by calling 1-866-WX-BRIEF (1-866-992-7433) from Canada, the United States, Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, or the Caribbean.

Unlike in the United States, even for VFR
Visual flight rules
Visual flight rules are a set of regulations which allow a pilot to operate an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot to see where the aircraft is going. Specifically, the weather must be better than basic VFR weather minimums, as specified in the rules of the...

 flights, pilots are required to file a flight plan or have a flight itinerary with a responsible person for any flight greater than 25 nm from the departure aerodrome. Also, in Canada, flight plans are opened automatically at the estimated time of departure (ETD). Flight service stations play a prominent role managing flight plans, collecting position reports from pilots en route, and initiating commsearch procedures to locate pilots who have not closed flight plans.

There is no per-use charge for flight services, but aircraft owners are required to pay Nav Canada
Nav Canada is a privately run, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation system .The company employs approximately 2,000 air traffic controllers , 800 flight service specialists and 700 technologists...

 a daily or annual fee, depending on aircraft weight, to support all air traffic services, both FSS and air traffic control (for a light private aircraft, the fee is approximately CAD 70/year). Foreign light aircraft entering Canada are billed a quarterly fee.

Canada has many mandatory frequency airports, which have enough traffic to justify special rules, but not enough to justify a control tower. Many of these airports have an onsite FSS that pilots are required to contact, while others have Remote Airport Advisory Services (RAAS) provided by an FSS in a different location. Rarely, an airport will have Mandatory Frequency Area rules, but no ground station.

Until 1996, the Canadian federal government operated all air traffic services (FSS and air traffic control) through Transport Canada
Transport Canada
Transport Canada is the department within the government of Canada which is responsible for developing regulations, policies and services of transportation in Canada. It is part of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio...

, a government department. Currently, a private non-profit corporation, Nav Canada operates both FSS and air traffic control and have significantly modernized the system, which involved the closing of some local FSS. However the company in turn created seven large Flight Information Centres (FICs) situated at certain airports throughout the country. These provide the standard en route FSS services (weather briefing, flight-planning and commsearch). The remaining flight service stations are now classified as airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

 advisory sites (AAS). They provide airport advisories, vehicle control, weather observations, clearance delivery, and some provide Remote Airport Advisory Services. These AAS stations generally have limited hours, limited personnel and are no longer responsible for flight planning, except for sending departure and arrival messages to the appropriate FIC. The FIC's have assumed the responsibility for flight plans, filing, inflight alerting, flight plan closures, interpretive weather briefings and NOTAM (NOtices To AirMen) management. The FIC's also have large areas they are overseeing and have networks of RCO's, some of which are co-located with advisory sites. The FIC's are similar in function and scope to the FAAs automated FSS system in the United States. North Bay FIC is tied into the North American Aerospace Defense Command
North American Aerospace Defense Command
North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint organization of Canada and the United States that provides aerospace warning, air sovereignty, and defense for the two countries. Headquarters NORAD is located at Peterson AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado...

 (NORAD) North Warning System
North Warning System
The North Warning System is a joint United States and Canadian radar system for the atmospheric air defense of North America. It provides surveillance of airspace from potential incursions or attacks from across North America's polar region...

 (NWS) radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 system, and has a network of 23 RCO's located across Canada's Arctic
The Arctic is a region located at the northern-most part of the Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. The Arctic region consists of a vast, ice-covered ocean, surrounded by treeless permafrost...

coast. The 3 northern hubs also assist and oversee the "Community Airport Radio Station" (CARS) program.

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