Your Flight Service Station by Michael Marotta

On August 7, Paul Olson from the Dayton Flight Service Station spoke to the Sidney (Ohio) Pilots Association (7I7). Your FSS provides weather briefings as its primary function. You phone 800-WX-BRIEF and you take some menu options and you hear the weather for your departure. The FSS also handles flight plans and can reorient lost pilots.

Your regional FSS invites you to call and make an appointment to come over and spend some time listening in on their radios and seeing how they do business. Doing this within the WINGS program counts as groundschool time toward Biennial Flight Review (BFR) equivalency. You should find your FSS friendly and open.

Paul Olson learned to fly when he was in high school in 1970. He went through MEL before family obligations took precedence. Even so, he gets a lot of cockpit time that would be the envy of most GA pilots. “My job lets me ride in the cockpit of commercial airliners,” he said.

When you telephone 800 WX BRIEF, tell them who you are, what you will be flying, where you will be departing from and your destination. Give your state. “Don’t let us tell you about Newark, New Jersey, if you are flying to Newark, Ohio.” Also, Olson advises, “if you are a student, say so. It makes all the difference in how we talk to you.” Corporate or commercial jet pilots get less attention. “Though you’d be surprised,” Olson said, hinting that it seems to him that some commercial jet pilots have never heard a weather briefing before.

If you get the DUATS from a website, then have that printout handy and ready when you call the FSS for an update.

When you call for a terminal forcast, you get better results a few minutes past the hour. This is because data is fed on on the hour for updates at 800, 1400, 2000, and 200 Zulu. (All times are in Universal Time. “If you don’t know the Greenwich time, just give us the local time, but tell us it is LOCAL time. We’ll do the math.”)

People expect a lot from Flight Service Stations. “Predicting the weather is a difficult task,” Olson said. “And I have had someone ask me about the weather next month.” However, you can always ask about MARGINAL conditions. This will give you your out if you fly into IFR. You will know where to look for safety after you do that 180.

Give your frequency. The Flight Service Station will be monitoring 10 or 20 different frequencies. When you have the mike keyed, the FSS has an indicator high. But it goes low, when you let go. Therefore GIVE YOUR FREQUENCY when you identify yourself to your Flight Service Station.

(By the way, check your volume. Often they can hear you fine, but you cannot hear them. It happens because you turned down the volume on the radio.)

If you file your flight plan through DUATS, the Flight Service Station probably does not have it handy. Certainly this is the case before your two-hour window. However, if you call the FSS with your flight plan, it can be on file for 24 hours. This makes it easy to change any detail, even the N-Number of the plane.

Paul Olson pleaded with us to file PIREPs. You can call in a Pilot Report for any condition you would want to know about if it were you that did not know about it. Fog or smoke close to the ground, or deer on the runway, migrating birds, cloud bases, layers, and tops. Turbulence is always a situation everyone wants to know about.

One activity of the FSS is helping pilots who are lost. You can have an electrical failure and lose your GPS or other navigation. You can get disoriented any number of ways. Your FSS can pick you up, sort you out, and tell you what you need to know to get back on course. Tomorrow, Aug. 8, I am going to give it a go. I will dial 122.55 and ask Dayton Flight Service if they have time to work with a simulated lost airplane situation.

Michael E. Marotta
Technical Writer