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FAA Celebrates 100 Years of Flight Service

Inside an FAA Air Traffic Control Tower at Washington Dulles International Airport. The federal agency is celebrating 100 years of its Flight Service program. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ryan Ewing)

The United States’ civil aviation governing body, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), on Thursday celebrated 100 years of Flight Service, according to a statement published on the FAA’s website. Flight Service works with pilots to provide briefings, flight plans, inflight advisory services, search and rescue, aircraft emergencies and Notices to Airmen.

Per the FAA’s website, the purpose of Flight Service is to provide world-class service and value to users of the National Airspace System (NAS), including new entrants; leverage advanced technologies to safely and efficiently deliver flight services in the contiguous United States (CONUS), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska; and support the ATO’s System Operations Services with innovative, collaborative solutions to complex operational problems.

Flight Service began on Aug. 20, 1920, to “ingest and interpret weather and aeronautical information” and pass that information to pilots. Flight Service Stations were originally called “air mail radio stations” since they were located along transcontinental airmail routes that were essential to postal delivery across the country.

Since, Flight Service has become an integral part of the flight planning process. Many pilots use it as their go-to source for comprehensive preflight briefings, and the service has become an integral part of flight training programs.

Since its inception, Flight Service has been available to pilots in the air via radio or on the ground over the phone. Today, Flight Service also offers pilots online weather and aeronautical information on its website, which allows pilots to access updated information in a graphical format before, during and after a flight.

Though many Flight Service practices are standardized across the contiguous 48 U.S. states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, special Federal Certified Professional Controllers offer service in Alaska. The FAA is investing in an Alaska Flight Service Initiative to “modernize and enhance the effectiveness of Flight Service in Alaska for future generations,” per the FAA’s article. Alaskan pilots also have access to the Aviation Weather Camera Program, which offers pilots access to a “near-real-time” video of weather conditions across the state, for 20 years; that program is being expanded to Colorado as of spring 2020.

Looking ahead, in addition to the Alaska Flight Service Initiative, the FAA is looking at introducing Voice Over Internet Protocol radios to enhance the effectiveness of Flight Service. Flight Service is also developing the Future Flight Service Program to adapt to changes in pilot behavior, developing Flight Service to meet the needs of future aviators across the country.

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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