Sept. 18, 2015

Upcoming changes to the Emergency Flight Advisory Service (EFAS) – more commonly known as “Flight Watch” – will mean a slight procedural change for flight crews, and a significant move toward further consolidation of flight advisory services in the U.S.

As of Sept. 24, flight crews should use the flight service common frequency of 122.2 MHz – or other area remote communication outlet frequencies – for flight watch services that were formerly available on 122.0 MHz and EFAS high-altitude discrete frequencies. The change means that most pilots will utilize a single frequency for access to all enroute flight services.

The change aligns with significant advances in the level of information available to flight crews, said Rich Boll, chairman of the Airspace, ATC and Flight Technologies Working Group of the NBAA Access Committee.

“Flight Watch came about, in part, following a series of commercial aircraft accidents in the 1970s that were attributable to enroute thunderstorms,” Boll said. “The intent was to provide as much real-time information as possible to flight crews, but many of those advantages from Flight Watch have since been upstaged by technological changes, such as in-cockpit NEXRAD weather.

“However, that places additional impetus for operators to understand that NEXRAD is not a real-time service,” he continued, and flight crews must know how to properly interpret that data knowing that it is not real-time.

While Boll expects the transition to a common frequency to be relatively problem-free, he added that NBAA would closely monitor the situation to ensure that flight operations aren’t negatively impacted.

“Keep in mind that, when Flight Watch first went into effect, there were some 1,200 flight service stations across the country,” he added. “A combination of technology and economics reduced that number significantly, and there may be some sticking points at first.

“For example, we want to make sure that pilots needing Flight Watch weather services [on 122.2 MHz] aren’t blocked by pilots trying to activate or close their IFR flight plans on the same frequency.”

Lockheed Martin Flight Service will continue monitoring 122.0 and high-altitude EFAS frequencies throughout a six-month transition period, thus enabling pilots time to adjust to the new procedures.