Region 8 Flight Station On Chopping Block

March 2, 2005 – Posted at 6:28 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- The Federal Aviation Administration has 58 Flight Service Stations all across the country, but they are reducing that number to 20. Now Arkansas' only station is on the chopping block.

The FAA Flight Service Station can be compared to On-Star for pilots. Before take offs and landings pilots can radio into and find out anything they need to know mostly about traffic and weather information. But now that the FAA is shutting down many of these stations and pilots are going to have to get that information somewhere else.

There are more than 40 aircraft through Jonesboro on a good day, mostly private and corporate pilots.

"I usually call the Flight Service Station and file all my flight plans with them and check out my weather. It's available on the computer but I like to talk to a person," said Phillip Gillespie, President of the Arkansas Air Center.

Pilots will have to use computers to get weather information when the Flight Service Station is gone during bad weather.

"We might have to work with Memphis which might cause some delays," said Gillespie, "The local guys cans say well, here's what they're saying, but it's going to do this or that."

If pilots lose current frequency, then they can go to another frequency that's shared with many other airports. Often, pilots can get confused on who's talking to who about which runway.

"Pine Bluff has one that's North-South and we have one that's kind of North-South and somebody could be thinking that they're actually listening to Pine Bluff and they are really landing in Jonesboro," said Gillespie.

"Without that service basically this airport will be like a lot of airports without any control," said flight instructor Stephen Casto.

Lockheed-Martin will take over the facility October 1, and representatives from that company will be in Jonesboro next week to brief employees about the coming changes. The 35 employees who work at the Flight Service Station won't know if they have a permanent position with the company until May.