Aviation Services:

Automation and Consolidation of Flight Service Stations

RCED-88-77: Published: Feb 8, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1988.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) program to consolidate and automate its flight service stations, focusing on: (1) whether the new automated system is performing all FAA-required services and the quality of those services; (2) the effect of technical problems experienced at the automated stations; and (3) the effect of staff constraints on automated operations.

GAO found that the automated stations: (1) are performing all FAA-required services, although the manner in which they provide services has changed; (2) do not provide weather observations; and (3) are experiencing technical problems involving computer systems, telephone lines, data lines, and telephone and radio communications. GAO also found that: (1) FAA contracted for weather observation services in areas that permanently closed stations formerly served; and (2) FAA is testing an automated weather observing system to replace the observers. In addition, GAO found that staffing and consolidation constraints: (1) have delayed achievement of anticipated productivity gains; (2) have increased the number of stations with reduced hours that FAA has not been able to close; and (3) will probably continue until consolidation is complete.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although FAA has not completed consolidation or its staffing standards, the general intent of this recommendation is being met. Flight service station staffing has not been reduced significantly since consolidation began and, in fact, will increase slightly next year.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to not further reduce the flight service specialist work force until after the flight service stations are closed and performance standards and staffing levels can be developed for the automated stations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FAA Advisory Circular 150/5220-16, Automated Weather Observing Systems for Non-Federal Applications, contains all the requirements for weather forecasting. FAA is ensuring that actions meet weather forecasting operational requirements. FAA took this action on its own, not because GAO recommended it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to ensure that the automated weather observing systems, acquired to replace contracted weather observers for areas formerly served by stations that have been closed, meet all FAA weather forecasting operational requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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