New FSS Briefing Format

Flight Service (Leidos) has released a new briefing format at 1800wxbrief.com. You can watch an overview video below. The FAA contractor just renewed its agreement with FAA to provide FSS services for at least five years.

FAA Plans for FSS Modernization

FAA wants to overhaul the way it provides preflight briefings and related services to general aviation users. The agency has published a request for proposals for providers interested in offering services now available primarily through Leidos (via telephone at 1-800-wxbrief and the web at www.1800wxbrief.com) and via apps, such as ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, FltPlan.com, FlyQ, and others.

AOPA has a summary of the proposal on its website, here. The key background document is the FAA Future Flight Services (FFS) Strategic Plan (PDF). For more information about this shift, see Declining Demand for FSS Services at BruceAir.

The FAA Future Flight Services (FFS) Strategic Plan notes that pilots are rapidly adopting tablet, mobile, and web-based services for flight planning and related tasks:

Over the last decade, Flight Service users are trending towards self-assisted service delivery methods as technology improves and industry-provided services become more widely available. Voice services constitute a small percentage of transactions and a majority of the cost to the FAA, while automated services constitute the majority of transactions.

The FAA’s Future Flight Services Program (FFSP) vision is to transform and modernize the delivery of flight services over a 15-year period. The FAA believes that costs can be reduced by focusing on changing user behavior and migrating to automated, self-assisted service delivery models, while still maintaining quality of service and safety. Through FFSP, the FAA seeks to create a long-term contract vehicle and establish a relationship with the Service Provider, industry and user groups to better position the agency to take advantage of user behavior changes and improved technology.

Together, government and industry will work to realize three strategic goals:

1. Reduce the FAA cost to provide flight services, with a target reduction over 65%

2. Encourage the use of technology, industry best practices, and authoritative flight data accessed through the System-Wide Information Management (SWIM) Program to improve efficiency and quality of service delivery

3. Facilitate and gain stakeholder acceptance of changes in Flight Service delivery

The FAA is confident that a collaborative relationship among Flight Service users and stakeholders, the Flight Service Provider and the FAA will be the foundation for successful delivery of improved flight services at a price that fits within the FAA’s budget and at a level of safety and quality of service that meets or exceeds what is delivered today…

3.1 USER TRENDS TOWARDS AUTOMATION
The last decade has seen a steady increase in the use of self-service applications to the point that automated transactions outnumber human-assisted calls by 3 to 1 and 90% of flight plans are filed using automated means. The degree to which pilots rely on automation on the ground and in the cockpit runs the gamut from historic aircraft with little or no avionics to sophisticated flight planning software and electronic flight bags for high-end users.

A table in the strategic plan offers more details.

FSS-StrategicPlan-Table-1-1

The strategic plan doesn’t provide specific proposals about how FSS services will change in the near future, but you can read additional background at the FSS page at the FAA website.

ForeFlight PDF Briefing Format

ForeFlight has added a PDF option for displaying preflight briefings. As the tweet below explains, the enhanced PDF briefing provides a more compact briefing that, among other features, sifts out irrelevant NOTAMs.

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-Tweet

The Briefing Format option is on the Settings tab in ForeFlight.

ForeFlight-BriefingFormat

I tested the feature by briefing an IFR flight from Boeing Field (KBFI) in Seattle to Felts Field (KSFF) in Spokane. You can download the full PDF of that briefing here.

The illustrations below show examples of the pages from the briefing.

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P1

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P2

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P3

ForeFlight-PDF-Briefing-P4

 

 

FAA Proposes End to HIWAS

FAA is requesting comments on a proposal to discontinue the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) provided by Flight Service.

For more information about changes to services provided by FSS, see the FAA website, here, and this item at BruceAir.

FAA announced the proposal in the Federal Register on July 23, 2018. Comments are due August 22, 2018; refer to Docket Number FAA-2018-0649.

Here’s the key text of the announcement:

Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service (HIWAS) is a continuous broadcast of weather advisories over a limited nationwide network of VORs that provide pilots with meteorological information relating to hazardous weather. Since the early 1980s, the broadcast, available in various locations of the contiguous United States (CONUS) allows pilots to access hazardous weather while inflight without going through a Flight Service specialist. HIWAS was conceived when there was a large demand for inflight briefings from specialists and wait times could be extremely long. HIWAS alleviated the workload of the specialists and helped to reduce wait times for pilots. At that time, pilots had no other choice but to contact Flight Service to obtain hazardous weather updates for the route of flight. Originally created by specialists using scripts, HIWAS is now produced using text to voice technology.

With the advent of the internet and other technology, the demand for inflight services from Flight Service specialists has declined. Staffing was 3,000+ specialists in more than 300 facilities during the early 1980s and now consists of three hub facilities. In 2018, radio contacts dropped to less than 900 per day from an average of 10,000 radio contacts per day.

As part of FAA efforts to modernize and streamline service delivery, the agency is interested in receiving comments on elimination of the Hazardous Inflight Weather Advisory Service.

 

New Kneeboard Nav Log at 1800wxbrief.com

The official FSS website, 1800wxbrief.com, now offers a new kneeboard-style navigation log that you can print and use in the cockpit.

You can set up a free account at 1800wxbrief.com, also known as Flight Service Pilot Web. It’s the official portal to FSS (DUATS was shut down in May 2018). To learn more about the services at 1800wxbrief.com, visit the site’s YouTube channel.

To see the kneeboard navigation log, first create a flight plan and click the NavLog button at the bottom of the flight plan window to display the standard naviation log.

LeidosFSS-Navlog-01
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To creat PDF version of the log in kneeboard format, click the Kneeboard PDF button at the top right of the standard NavLog window.

LeidosFSS-Navlog-03
You can print the PDF, which is formatted to fold to fit a typical pilot kneeboard.

Declining Demand for FSS Services

The July/August 2018 issue of FAA Safety Briefing includes a note about the end of TIBS, the Telephone Information Briefing Service (TIBS) in the contiguous United States, effective Sept. 13, 2018.

(TIBS is recorded information, including weather reports and forecasts. Flight Service created TIBS when there was a large demand for briefings, with the potential for extremely long wait times. You can read about TIBS in AIM 7-1-8.)

The interesting news the in article, however, isn’t about TIBS, which most pilots don’t know about and therefore don’t use and won’t miss. Instead, there’s the following detail about how pilots are actually using FSS:

With the advent of the internet and other enabling technology, the demand for information from Flight Service specialists has declined. From more than 3,000 specialists in more than 300 facilities during the early 1980s, staffing has decreased to fewer than 400 specialists in three facilities. Radio contacts have dropped to less than 900 per day, from an average of 10,000 per day.

A chart from another FAA document shows the trend graphically:

FSS-RadioContacts

This trend led to the end of Flight Watch in 2015 and a program to reduce the number of remote communications outlets (RCO) for FSS.

As the article notes, complying with 14 CFR 91.103 Preflight Action doesn’t require calling FSS (for more background, see What Qualifies as an Official Preflight Briefing? at BruceAir):

There are multiple sources available to pilots to access weather and aeronautical information, which are often presented in an easier to understand graphical format. Pilots no longer need to call a Flight Service specialist to adhere to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 91.103 to maintain awareness of weather and aeronautical information.

Graphical Forecasts for Aviation

The Graphical Forecasts for Aviation tool at the Aviation Weather Center is now operational. It supplants the text Area Forecasts in the lower 48, plus it offers more information about current weather. AOPA has published more news about the swtich to the GFA here.

For more detailed information about the GFA tool, see this description (PDF) and this tutorial.

AWC-GFA-tool