Aviation Weather Briefings:

FAA Should Buy Direct User Access Terminal Systems, Not Develop Them

RCED-86-173: Published: Jun 6, 1986. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) draft reports comparing various direct user access terminal systems (DUATS) designed to reduce the work load of flight service station specialists by permitting pilots to obtain weather briefings and file flight plans with their own personal computers. GAO specifically addressed the issue of whether DUATS will be provided as part of the Flight Service Automation System program, developed as an FAA Technical Center independent system, or purchased as a service provided by commercial vendors.

GAO noted that DUATS would enable FAA to reduce the cost of supplying each preflight weather briefing by more than two-thirds compared with existing flight service station practices. GAO found that: (1) the commercial systems were the most attractive; (2) the Flight Service Automation System is still in the design stage and involves more risks than a commercial system or the FAA Technical Center system; (3) FAA has not operationally tested the Technical Center system, which lacks a weather graphics display; (4) commercially available systems that currently provide weather graphics displays would be less costly than the Technical Center prototype system; (5) commercial systems have been servicing states and individuals for several years, thereby reducing the technical and operational risks; (6) FAA agrees with GAO that commercial systems are the best option; and (7) the FAA budget request is no longer appropriate and needs to be revised.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA agreed that the direct user access terminal systems and weather depiction displays at flight service stations were better supplied by private vendors than developed as part of the Flight Service Station Automation Program. Accordingly, FAA agreed to discontinue these development activities.

    Matter: The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation Subcommittee, should deny funding for FAA system development as part of the Model 2 Flight Service Automation Program in the 1987 Facilities and Equipment budget request.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Appropriations Committee and the Appropriations Act for fiscal year (FY) 1987 do not contain requested funding for the Model 2 Flight Service Station Automation Program or the Technical Center's DUATS program, reducing the FAA request by $8 million.

    Matter: The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation Subcommittee, should discontinue funding development of the FAA Technical Center System Research, Engineering and Development request.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Appropriations Committee does not intend to ask DOT for the recommended data.

    Matter: The House Appropriations Committee, Transportation Subcommittee, should ask the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide the Subcommittee with a request for the level of funding the Department believes is needed for proceeding with a program based on commercially available systems.

 

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