"You Get What You Pay For"

Those were the words from the lips of a LH flight briefer.

Here I thought he was joking, however he wasn’t!!!

This was the first time I have ever called FSS air file a flight plan. Isn’t learning wonderful! :slight_smile:

What I completed on the AFSS website is below my name. Website only allows 2000 characters in the comment field. Who has time to count charactors? :smiley:


Called for a briefing and filing of IFR flight plan on 10/13.

Automated phone service said 3 minute hold for “local briefer” for MS. I elected to use the national network and pushed I believe zero to get a briefer right away.

First request was a filing of an IFR flight plan from KMBO to KEKY. Briefer said IFR flight planned filed. I then asked for a Standard briefing for my flight and briefer said “I get what I paid for”. He said he was not familiar with my geographical area. If you do retrieve the recording, you will see I took the comment lightly as do understand I went out of my area. Received standard briefing, briefing was fine for what I needed, since weather was not an issue, and I get the standard briefing more for formality of NOTAMS in this case. Check Flight Aware website, and didn’t see my flight as scheduled. Went to the airport and about 10 minutes before scheduled departure called FSS and person answered said I was in the system after checking with Memphis Center. Depart on time, and call into KJAN approach. NO FLIGHT PLAN! I guess I really got what I paid for???

I had to airfile another IFR flight plan. I was told I was #3 and to standby!!! Weather was clear and a million! This put me in a busy airspace talking with FSS rather then approach controllers which becomes a safety issue. I had to wait approximately 2 to 3 minutes before someone was available to take my IFR air filing.

Understand things happened, but too many delays and failures happened yesterday. I shouldn’t be having to airfile in Charlie airspace for a plan that I filed via FSS, that I even DOUBLE CHECKED to see I was in the system. Flight Aware clued me in something was amiss by not having me as a scheduled departure. Feel free to call me if more information is needed or email me!

Really bad news! Can’t even trust FSS for PRESIDENTIAL TFR briefings!!!


Just an update to the FSS saga. I did get a call from the FSS Tennesse regional manager today. He pulled the particulars of my case

Cause of the problem was that the IFR flight plan was typed in with the wrong Zulu time, and I had talked with a briefer out of Washington DC.

Regional manager acknowledged they had problems with technical issues with both computers and briefers, and fully understood the implications of operational issues of me having to re-file in the air, and in my particular case in a busy airspace.

He said that the individual briefer would be talked to about the comment “You get what you pay for” as that was not an exactly professional thing to say.


The FSS who use to work for the Govt. were told that the Govt. was selling FSS to LockMart and were given three choices. 1. Retire if they were eligible 2. Submit an application to LockMart. 3. Quit.

It didn’t matter if they were two weeks from retirement, they lost all their retirement. So there are lots of disgruntled employees. LockMart is suing the FAA for 25 million dollars right now because the Govt. didn’t estimate the cost of services correctly. (Liars!!!) You do get what you pay for, selling a service to the lowest bidder is what the FAA asked for and it’s what they got.

Keep complaining! We need to not let the standard of service get any worse. I suggest you call your Congressman too. On a side note, imagine flying in New York or Southern California and the same thing happens?

Finally, this is exactly what the FAA is trying to do to the Air Traffic Control System in general, cheapen it up, and sell it to… yes, the lowest bidder.

**Incorrect **based on my knowledge of Federal retirement benefits (I am a Fed retiree).

If you have WRITTEN references on the above (not hearsay), please provide this, as a gubment employees doesn’t “lose” retirement. This includes both CSRS and FERS employees.


Those who had already retired of course still receive their checks. I was talking about the FSS personnel who were about ready to retire loosing all their retirement “if they weren’t eligible”. They could have been two weeks from retirement, and their job was sold off to LockMart, and loss everything they were expecting to receive. Another option was retire “if they were eligible”. Whose who were not- lost everything! That is why they are so pissed off. There were a few who became ATC’er, but they were the exception.

From what I remember, they were only given 3 months notice, but could be mistaken about that one.

Kind of time restricted, more to follow, the follow is from the National ATC Association former President, John Carr’s website. I’ll get more stuff to you later. Here is a letter from a FSS guys who lost everything.

A Crying Shame

Many of you have noted the lengths to which NATCA went to try and get the Flight Service folks transferred into Centers, Towers and TRACONS. I personally asked Marion, Russ, Mica, Johnson and several others and was rebuffed every time. I was even asked about the subject during congressional testimony. Additionally, the NATCA National Executive Board used to meet with the FAA ATO’s Leadership Team—and yes, this was during the era when we supposedly weren’t meeting with the agency—and the NATCA NEB asked the ATO VPs point-blank to give us the FSS’ers. They did what they always did: Checked their watches and started worrying about lunch, and who was buying.

People don’t realize the human cost of the agency’s hard-headed stupidity. I did then, and I continue to hear about it now. Like this letter, for instance…

"I am a former FAA (20.5 years ATC) that was fired when Lockheed took over AFSS.

I lost pretty much my entire pension, and I will have no health care when I retire. After 20 years of working for them, I can collect a pension 19 years from now, at 20% of my base pay instead of the 39% I would have received if allowed to finish the little time I had left to retire. Notice, I lose about 19 years of COLAS there, so basically, my pension is GONE.

My Social Security Supplement is also GONE.

You talk about staffing at Control Towers? The FAA made sure Lockheed had people, believe me.

There were HUNDREDS OF US that needed tower jobs to save our pensions, many of us had over 20 years working for the FAA. Hundreds of us were willing to jump in a tower, taking with us useful knowledge of the National Airspace System.

The FAA literally BLOCKED us from those tower jobs (I have documented proof now) even though they were supposed to be doing “everything possible” (MB, 2005) to assist us.

I wasted two years looking for a tower job, a job I had ZERO chance of getting. I would have bee better off if the FAA just said “you’re f***ed”.

Instead, they tell me these lies, and promises of doing all they can, and now I am more than two years further back on pursuing another career.

They need tower people all right, but not enough to try and help the people they already fired. They have destroyed a lot of careers and families over this."

Facts? This is from the Federal Times, about half way down the doc. look where I inserted

The question about their retirement. So the money they paid into FER’s, will help with their Social Security, without COLA increases, So as cost of living goes up, there money goes down. Absolutely nothing about retirement. It’s gone…

Ventris Gibson
Federal Aviation Administration

Piloting a course through RIFs, new pay system
August 26, 2005

Ventris Gibson is Assistant Administrator of Human Resources for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Photo by Rob Curtis / Federal Times

Ventris Gibson started her federal career 27 years ago directing air traffic for the Navy. Today, shes helping direct the 46,000-person Federal Aviation Administration through one of its most turbulent periods since President Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Gibson is helping oversee the transfer of 2,400 FAA flight service jobs to Lockheed Martin, a decision that has triggered bid protests, lawsuits and outcry from some lawmakers. Moreover, she is negotiating with union officials to bring the remaining 18 percent of the agencys work force under a pay-for-performance system; Congress authorized the agency in 1996 to adopt a pay-for-performance system. She also is preparing to hire nearly 600 air traffic controllers next fiscal year to cope with an expected wave of retirements.

But Gibson had anticipated all these bumpy conditions when she walked through FAAs door almost two years ago as the agencys assistant administrator for human resources management.

When I came to FAA, I expected to work in a human resources management program that was independent, unique and met the needs of our employees and managers, she said. I found not only do we have the authority of having an independent HR system but we had the tools we needed to build upon that system.

Before coming to FAA, Gibson was the deputy assistant secretary for human resources management at the Veterans Affairs Department the highest-ranking female veteran employed by VA. She had joined the VA in 1980 as a personnel clerk in Washington and climbed the career ladder until, as deputy assistant secretary for resolution management, she was given the challenging task of creating a congressionally mandated dispute resolution program to improve VAs handling of discrimination complaints. The work earned her in 1999 the meritorious award, the second-highest honor for Senior Executive Service members.

Gibson sat down with Federal Times to discuss the vast changes under way at FAA:

Q: The House passed a spending bill that would stop FAA from outsourcing the flight service function. What will happen if the Senate agrees with the House?

Gibson: If the Senate were to agree, and I dont believe that that happened, it still has to go to the president. And the president either will approve it or veto it.

Q: So, youre not worried about that.

Gibson: At this time, Im not worried because my focus is making sure that we transition the work force into the competitive sourcing area and that is, unfortunately, a reduction in force. Our work force did receive their RIF notices on July 18 because were required to give them a 60-day advance notice.

Q: I heard not all employees were offered jobs with Lockheed.

Gibson: All employees were given the right of first refusal. The right of first refusal from Lockheed was, Heres the job offer. You accept or not. Some accepted, some obviously did not apply, and some declined. But they were all offered jobs.

Q: What did you do to help employees with the transition?

Gibson: It was a significant challenge for us. We went all out. We have dedicated Web pages to provide transition information. We have a special placement program where if an employee walks out the door under a reduction in force for two years [after] they receive their reduction-in-force notices, they can receive consideration and must be selected, if well qualified, for a job within the agency. We have certain provisions other agencies dont. For example, the 40 percent sick leave buy back: What well do is buy your sick leave from you for 40 percent on the dollar if you are retiring. We have had human resources teams visit each of the flight service station sites twice. We hired FPMI Solutions, Inc. to provide career transition services resume writing, interview techniques, skills assessment. The administrator and myself also have flown to sites and talked to employees.

Q: What about employees concerns about losing their retirement benefits?

Gibson: Thats really not so because if Im not eligible for voluntary or regular retirement, my retirement can stay in the retirement fund and I can get it at the time I become eligible. And lets remember that if youre under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the majority of what youre paying is Social Security. So if you leave FAA, go work for Lockheed Martin and youre still under Social Security, thats still going to help you into your retirement. Some have concerns about their percentage of contributions because theyre under the special air traffic controller retirement system. We have published information explaining that on our Web site and documents. We even published brochures explaining that in detail. And pretty much the majority of those questions have settled as people have become aware of their individual circumstances.

And that was the reason why we want the HR team to travel to the facilities to meet with employees. I remember one meeting where we sat down with an employee and once he understood, he was OK. So, its a process of education. And that would be my recommendation to anyone who is undergoing this process that you really must educate your work force so that they fully understand the options and can make well-informed decisions.

Q: What are lessons learned from this study that can be applied to future studies?

Gibson: Weve done everything. I would want to follow the example set by our competitive sourcing organization here as they did a phenomenal job.

Q: What are other functions that will be studied in the near future?

Gibson: At this time, Im not aware if we have any.

Q: Lets talk about pay for performance. How do you like being paid for your performance?

Gibson: It is the greatest things since sliced bread, especially for someone like myself who came from a Title 5 environment where we didnt have pay for performance to an environment where I know that my contribution to the overall goal of the agency is going to drive what my pay increase will be. And thats exactly the way it should be.

Q: FAA has been using pay for performance since 1996. Is the system going to be applied to all 46,000 employees? If thats the case, what is the timeframe for that?

Gibson: Eighty-two percent of our work force is under pay for performance. Were now seeking to fold in the rest of the work force, and labor negotiations drive that. Were actively in union negotiations with our air traffic controllers union now. As to a time frame, labor negotiations are ongoing now and it would be premature for me to estimate.

Q: As you have some experience with pay for performance, what are your recommendations for the Defense and Homeland Security departments as theyre transitioning into their new personnel systems, which include pay for performance?

Gibson: Involve their employee groups. Have a solid internal communication strategy to employees, a continuous education program, and basic assurance to employees of what they can expect and what they dont have to worry about. And periodic assessment of their systems to ensure theyre still on track.

Q: FAA is hiring nearly 600 air traffic controllers next year as part of the plan to hire 12,500 air traffic controllers over 10 years to cope with new waves of retirement and other personnel losses. Are you confident youre going to be able to hire all these people in time?

Gibson: Most definitely, yes. We have various lists that are robust. We have what we call the college training initiative. These are where our colleges and universities have accredited aviation programs that graduate individuals as air traffic controllers. That has hundreds of candidates on it a year. The second is veterans. These are individuals who are air traffic controllers in the military. We have hundreds on that list as well. We have former controllers seeking reinstatement. And then another is when we choose to do job fairs.

I can tell you that when we ran job fairs in the past, we had hundreds and thousands of people nationwide who wanted to be air traffic controllers.


Again, I will ask, show me something that these FSS folks lost their retirement benefits. I don’t think you will.

The above are simply WRONG and hearsay based on a disgruntled employee.

I am not to say he is right or wrong about being disgruntled, just being very clear none of those folks lost their retirement. Newer gubment employees work under the Social Security System (FERS), so the second statement is totally off base, since the privitized FSS are not goverment employees have to pay into the Social Security system.

This guy did not lose one penny of his benefits.

As you know there are two sides to every story.

Just on a gander with Google, I found this. flightservicesigmet.blogspot.com … chive.html


Still incorrect, the money they contributed to the FEDERAL retirement fund would have been distributed per guidelines for seperation from government employment if they elected a lumpsum distribution or wait until 55 for a standard distribution. This applies to the CSRS employees.

FERS employees would just contribute to the Social Security system as they did in the past, and when they turned eligible for goverment retirement, they would get it accordingly.

These folks did not lose one penny of their retirement contributions.


"These folks did not lose one penny of their retirement contributions. "

OK, “Retirement contribution” and getting a retirement are two different things. You get a check every month from the Govt. for your earned retirement. And you get an disbursements or lump sum from FERS. When eligible your Social Security. These guys will get their FERS (that they contributed to), and then Social Security offset, then their S.S… But no retirement.

Being in air traffic, he would collect Social Security from whenever he retired until he is eligible to receive S.S. like everyone else. (It’s call S.S. offset)

You go call the FSS station and tell them they didn’t loose their retirement when the FAA outsourced them?

The only thing these guys get is money that they already put in, whether it be S.S. or FERS/CSRS. I doubt any of them who were not able to retire were CSRS employees. They wont get a monthly check like you do.

Would you care to back this up with something in writing to support your last sentence???

Not from the FSS folks complaining, but from the retirement system of your choice.

Something tells me you won’t be able to…


You guys are missing the main issue. FSS controllers who did not meet the 20 years/age 50 or the 25 years/any age LOST THEIR ATC RETIREMENT. They will still get SS and other basic retirement benefits as anyone who has the quarters will, but they were paying in at a higher rate than other federal/non federal workers. That money now becomes a gift to the government. Some specialists were only days short of their 20 years, and the FAA cut them off. In my facility, there was one specialist who was 3 or 4 months short, and one who was 6 months short. These folks LOST THEIR ATC retirement. The only way they can re-coop it is to get an ATC job 2152 series in a tower or ARTCC to continue till they get their good time.And that is going VERY poorly, regardless what you hear from the FAA spin doctors.
You want it in black and white. Here is the section…**

Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
Contributions For CSRS: 7%

For CSRS-Offset:

* 0.8% to Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund
* 6.2% to Social Security up to the Maximum Earnings
* CSRS contribution then changes to 7% for the remainder of the year

1.3% to Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund 6.2% to Social Security up to the Maximum Earnings

Definition of Salary for High-3 Purposes

Includes: Basic Salary and Locality Pay
Does not include: overtime, premium pay, night differential

Includes: Basic Salary and Locality Pay
Does not include: overtime, premium pay, night differential

Age 50 with 20 years good time
Any age with 25 years good time

Age 50 with 20 years good time or

Any age with 25 years good time
Computation for Full-time Employees 1.5% x first 5 years

1.75% x next 5 years

2% x years over 10 (x high-3*)

Guaranteed 50% of high-3
If you are under 55 and retire under special provisions the reduction in annuity does not apply.

1.7% x high-3* x years of good time (up to 20 years FERS good time)

1% for each year over 20.

CSRS good time - use CSRS regular formula

No guaranteed 50%
Not eligible for 1.1% calculation for annuity

Here is the link.

employees.faa.gov/employee_serv … tc_retire/

Its a complicated issue but you are both right. They didn’t loose a civil service retirement but they did loose their ATC retirement…and that my friends is HUGE. Additionally, their health benefits were lost, and won’t be carried into retirement. You start adding up those partial percents and your well into a six digit lost in benefits.

I wont even go into how screwed up and IMO unsafe the new FSS ‘system’ is.

Former FSS controller.

And OH, before you call me a disgruntled employee, You bet I am, but not on this issue personally. I just DID get my 20, but didn’t have the age, I was FORCED to find a federal job if I wanted my ATC retirement. Some haven’t been so lucky, and its criminal.

Could you expand on that? While I agree with you that the new FSS people are generally not as competent as the former ones, it is not clear to me that the ultimate accuracy of the weather briefing is much different. In both cases, the majority of briefers with whom I’ve spoken are using the same information from the same sources that they did previously. Some of the old briefers could actually interpret the information and I think that is pretty much gone these days. However, it is not clear to me that the weather forecast accuracy is any different. Doe you have evidence to the contrary?


Well, for one, you mentioned the local knowledge. True, any FSS specialist should be able to brief anywhere in the lower US, but the information he ‘relays’ to you can be obtained on line, with a printout. The new folks are “weather readers” followed by disclaimers. Its all the behind the scenes information and “Plus” services that are gone or going fast. Look at the mess with the ADIZ areas in D.C. Someone in Prescott (or some other Hub 1000 miles away) trying to work an ADIZ flight plan had no clue. Recently a FSS specialist didn’t give a TFR. Airspace was busted. F16s scrambled. Search and rescue, I have personally witnessed 3 incidents where the time parameters were busted by FSS, big time. There are certain times for QALQs, INREQs and ALNOTs for a reason. Luckily the flights were located without incident. All it will take is one ‘important’ person to be overdue and the FSS search and rescue isn’t started when it is supposed to and they find him just a bit too late. They are hiring back specialists that retired 10 years ago, (I know of this personally) to supplement staffing. Some retired for medical reasons, some due to age. Doesn’t sound too safe to me.

I now work in an ARTCC environment. Controllers are getting additional duties dumped on them that FSS can no longer handle due to the staffing shortages. canceling of IFR flight plans at un-controlled airports is one. When a pilot can’t get to a briefer, or the “1-800 I want to cancel my IFR plan” number, the airspace is protected. Many are calling the centers and approach controls directly to cancel, further tying up ATC. The list of “functions” that FSS (i.e. the FAA) gave away to other facilities or eliminated altogether is astounding. I have it somewhere, and will post it when I dig it up. Equipment, hey, its been 2 years this month that LM took over with " as required in their bid " a compatible, working system. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be working like it did on paper. There are backup PCs, web pages, manuals, not exactly user friendly. I bet you don’t see the Pilot interface for at least 2 years, if at all.

Sorry for the incoherency, but its late and I need to rest up so I can cheer on the Red Sox tomorrow.

More if you want.


Thank you for a coherant reply. I had no idea ATC had a retirement plan or that the employees contributed at a higher rate. That’s a whole different beast then CSRS and FERS.

It depends on the health insurance provider whether they lost their health benefits or not. I am betting not everybody had BCBS. Again, thank you for clarifying the ATC retirement, as I didn’t know anything about that.

My experiences to be honest are quite the opposite. While I won’t file another flight plan with FSS, I will continue to get standard / outlook briefings. The quality overall has not been that bad. I posted this primarily for the words spoken to me.

Sounds like NATCA failed you.


Everyones mileage will vary on this issue. I assume it depends on the experience of the pilot as well as the FSS specialist. The scenario I worry about is a student pilot and a newbie FSS specialist, (especially if both are full of pi$$ and vinegar). The briefing (both the giver and getter) are starting below sea-level so to speak. If the pilot doesn’t know what to ask for, he may not get it. Enter the instructor, they need to be even more vigilant in their quality control. There was an issue on another aviation web site where the specialist couldn’t interpret the date time group on a FDC or military NOTAM. That is inexcusable. Pilots can no longer say they are departing Pittsfield going to Downtown airpark. It means nothing to this US wide briefing service. In my opinion AOPA and pilots in general were sold a bill of goods. You would be astounded to hear how many GA pilots knew nothing of the contract award to LM. All the added services are gone. At Bangor AFSS, we were a customs airport. Pilots coming in to BGR from Canada needed to tell us to advise customs. One day (pre 9/11) a DC-3 came in from Canada and parked on the ramp outside our station . One of the specialists on a break noticed it and did a search, got the pilots cell number and asked him if he notified customs. He did not. He immediately called customs and had his inspection. Had that briefer not called him, he would have been fined. I believe at the time it was hefty, 5K I think. Those services are gone with LM.

Sounds like NATCA failed you.


In a word Yes. However, FSS was under a different Union, NAATS, (National Association of Air Traffic Specialists). A much smaller union, and very limited resources. Most of our budget was spent protesting the initial outsourcing. They Still exist in Alaska. natca was asked for help, but ultimately turned a blind eye. They had bigger fish to fry. Funny, when the outsourcing virus started with FSS, it began with a “study” done by Grant Thorton. The train had left the station and there was no turning back. Guess whats happening now at some ATC towers…yup, Grant Thorton is performing a “study” on services. These folks better get their ducks in a row because LM and others are chomping at the bit to take over ATC. The only saving grace is the poor performance LM has provided.

Sad, so very sad.

Go Sox.
Cheers, Dan

Again, like you said this will vary widely on experiences, but truth be known, whether it be a LM briefer or a gubment briefer, what you describe above would happen no matter what stage we would be at.

Trainees are trainees, and just like the beginning of FSS, transitional problems will exist with everybody learning a new job whether it be on the briefer end or the pilots end.

So what you say above just isn’t confined to this transition to LM. Since this is a “precedence” on a transisition of this magnatude, getting stats on how badly this is going really isn’t there. We know it’s bad, but we don’t know if this is a normal learning curve bad or is LM butching this up. Next time the contract is up for bidding for FSS services, then we have something to learn from.

Let’s face it, the world we live in, is now computerized. While it would be nice to have that “face to face” or telephone contact with a local FSS, if it means cutting back on service for this human contact, then we need to accept it and find other venues for our briefings and filing of plans.

When was the last time you had the opportunity to talk with an IRS employee face to face for help on a form? Notice how those offices are being attritioned out to a national service. So, in a nutshell, the phase of face to face service with a local person is going by the way side. It’s just catching up with aviation now.

What this amounts to is we need to start utilizing other resources such as DUATS, DUAT and other internet resources more and become less dependant on FSS. I know FSS won’t like to hear it, but it’s the way of today’s operation in corporate America.

You may ask, why am I retired from the gubment at a tender age of 46. Well, guess what, outsourcing bit me in the rear end, so I can say, been there done it. Agency did offer me another job, but it wasn’t IT which I was in, so I told them don’t let the door hit me in the rear end on my exit. It was my choice.

Bottom line, is that there are resources out there for pilots, and readily available so safety is not compromised one bit. It will take the aviation community to accept what we have and move on.

I will respectfully disagree with this. It was “luck” that got that pilot off the hook. It just so happened there was a FSS on field.

Had he landed at another field, he wouldn’t have had that luck in his bag of tricks. He just happen to be at the right place at the right time with an alert FSS catching his mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, FSS plays a very vital role in aviation, like I said I call for briefings. Purpose of my call is not necessarily get the weather any more, as I read that from DUAT. I use the call mainly to verify that TFR’s are not along my route. I can easily get this from AOPA or DUAT’s but I want FSS to be available, so I purposely get that call in so at least the stats will show the services are being used.
Gubment is all about stats!!! **

I only once had something come out of a FSS briefing that I missed or didn’t get online and that was a glide slope was OTS. I posted my experiences at discussions.flightaware.com/viewtopic.php?t=3391


**I’*ll check out that post.

Thanks for the civil discussion.


Thanks also for the fine explanation, I am not very good at narrowing down my points into a easy to understand format. CarpCon1, thanks. Lieberma, one thing I can tell you about the Gubment in this day in age. Nothing, especially during this current administration is certain. When one talks about government employees, many people stereotype them as people standing by the water fountain laughing and watching the phone ring. People say, get ride of them and let them work for a living like the rest of us. This stereotype unfortunately includes people in the aviation field who the Administration wants to remove. They were hard working employees who worked holidays, weekends, nights, during their kids school programs, missed out on way too many family events, and were treated so poorly.
Thanks for helping me understand your points.