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.
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.