Begich Secures Commitment on Alaska’s Flight Service Stations
FAA Administrator Babbitt gives assurances at Commerce Hearing
Under questioning today from U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt gave assurances that Alaska's Flight Service Stations (FSS) and their jobs would remain under the administration of the FAA. Alaska is the only state where FSS services are not contracted out, raising concerns in the state of potential outsourcing.
In today's hearing of the Commerce Committee's Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee, Begich discussed the good work Alaskans are performing at FSS and the need to keep it a government function under FAA control. He also expressed concern that reported vacancies at facilities are not being filled and rates of turnover at these facilities need to be addressed by the FAA.
Alaska's 17 Flight Service Stations provide pilots with critical safety information including up-to-date weather information, en route communication, and search and rescue functions when needed.
"Alaskans working at our FSS facilities are routinely helping to keep Alaska's skies safe before, during, and after flights," Begich said. "The work they perform comes with invaluable experience gained from the unique conditions of Alaska's airspace, planes, and pilots. I welcome the Administrator's stance to keep these jobs under the operation of the FAA and look forward to a report on Alaska's staffing levels."
Concerns over a possible change for Alaska's FSS began in 2005 following a decision by the FAA to contract the operation of 58 FSS stations in the Lower 48, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii to Lockheed Martin. Administrator Babbitt absolved those concerns today:
"We will get back with you to make sure we have the staffing levels that are required up there (Alaska) and I have no intent of making any change in that environment, so I think I can assuage that fear for you," Babbitt said.
Sen. Begich previously discussed the special conditions relating to Alaska's FSS facilities in a private meeting with the Administrator during his confirmation process. Additionally, the FAA's Flight Services Director, Dennis Roberts, visited Alaska and several FSS facilities in the state earlier this year.
Following the hearing, Begich will send a letter to Administrator Babbitt asking the Administration to review staffing efforts and turnover levels at the FSS facilities. The letter will note the ability for the FAA to use Alaska's top notch training facilities, such as the University of Alaska's Aviation Technology Division, to produce quality operators.