Lockheed takes over FAA flight service

Nearly 2,000 Lockheed Martin employees, newly hired from the Federal Aviation Administration, took over operation of the FAA’s Automated Flight Service Stations, as part of $1.9 billion competitive sourcing contract.

The transition affected 2,500 FAA employees, about 1,750 of whom became Lockheed Martin employees, losing their federal retirement benefits.

About another 240 former flight service employees moved elsewhere within the agency, while others retired or went their separate ways.

Flight service specialists provide preflight weather briefings, flight planning services, in-flight radio communications, and search-and-rescue services, mostly to corporate and commercial pilots who do not fly for major airlines.

Under the contract announced last February, Lockheed Martin is to take over the operation of the FAA's Automated Flight Service Stations, upgrade computers and reduce the number of stations from 58 to 20, FAA officials said.

The closing of 38 flight service stations, expected to occur from April 2006 to March 2007, could save up to $2.2 billion during the 10-year contract, FAA officials said.

Company officials said today that they do not anticipate closing sites until late 2006.

“We’ll go through a gradual transition as we bring in the new equipment and make sure everything is running as advertised,” Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Wagovich said.

Union officials say yesterday’s changeover went off without a hitch because only the payroll shifted hands, not facilities or equipment.

“Lockheed’s system still does not integrate with FAA’s system,” said Kate Breen, president of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, which represents flight service station employees.

Lockheed Martin officials confirmed that the new system will not be installed until next March at the earliest, while full system operation will not occur until some time later.

Breen added that the drop to 1,750 flight station specialists will affect aviation. “Pilots will see an increase in wait time to get any service,” she said.

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