What is a Flight Service Station?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A flight service station is a facility responsible for providing support services to pilots, beyond instructions from air traffic control. Specialists at a flight service station can provide a variety of services to pilots, including communications and search and rescue assistance, weather advisories, and flight briefings. To work in such facilities, people need some basic training from aviation authorities, usually provided as part of the hiring and recruitment process. With experience, a specialist can move between stations.

A flight service station will help coordinate emergency response and route assistance in the event of an emergency.
A flight service station will help coordinate emergency response and route assistance in the event of an emergency.

Pilots preparing for flights can contact the flight service station to get information about weather conditions, traffic patterns at the airport, and airport policies. The specialists can assist pilots with filing and adjusting flight plans and may offer preflight advisories to help pilots plan their trips more effectively. Pilots who need assistance during a flight can contact a flight service station on the radio. In an emergency, the flight service station helps coordinate emergency response and route assistance to the most appropriate location.

Air traffic control services are not provided at a flight station, although at an airport where air traffic control is not used because of the low volume of aircraft, the flight service station can provide guidance for pilots and direct pilots so they can land safely. Specialists also cannot issue direct orders to pilots, only recommendations and advisories. They do have access to tracking systems so they can follow flight patterns in the area and use this information to assist pilots.

This type of work requires a keen attention to detail, paired with the ability to function in a sometimes chaotic environment. Many airports accept flights at all hours, and the flight service station must be ready to assist. In addition, pilots may call at strange hours to get briefings so they can make decisions about whether to proceed with planned trips, or make adjustments for safety reasons. Understanding aviation laws, as well as basic safety concerns, is important for personnel at a flight service station.

Workers can meet with pilots in person, over the phone, or on the radio. Some companies operate remote flight service stations, where people in a central location service a large area. These specialists need training in weather patterns across the region they serve so they can provide accurate and helpful information to pilots. They may also need to be familiar with regional accents so they can understand pilots clearly over the radio. Being able to network with law enforcement and other services in the region is also an important trait.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@NathanG - I there is definitely some overlap between the functions of the FAA flight service station and that of air traffic control. I see the service station as helping to alleviate some burdens on air traffic control by providing general flight and advisory information.

Given the overlap however the question remains how long some of these stations will remain open. The FAA has closed some stations and consolidated others. Will this trend continue? I don’t know.

I am not sure if this is motivated by economic concerns or because they see some redundancy in the functions of the stations. I am all for efficiency but I think the flight service stations play an important role and should remain open.


@everetra - Actually, I think both of these positions are high pressure jobs. As a specialist you are still advising pilots. Give them the wrong information and you could be responsible for the mishap, notwithstanding the role that the controller will later play in helping the pilot to land the plane.

I think the most important quality for the flight service station attendant or the controller is to be alert at all times. I’ve heard horrible stories of controllers sleeping on the job, causing near misses of airplanes for which they were responsible.


I thought at first glance that flight service station jobs were a little lower on the totem pole than those of air traffic controllers. While this is generally true the article points out that sometimes the flight service station attendant can function as a controller when needed.

I suppose the question to ask yourself is if you want the pressure of being an air traffic controller or if you want to simply work as a flight service station attendant. I think I’d rather be an attendant and not participate in those positions that can morph into controller jobs.

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