For many long-time pilots, the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUAT or DUATS depending on the provider) was a revolution. When it became available in the early 1990s, the concept of getting a weather briefing or filing a flight plan without calling Flight Service on the phone seemed incredible. And for over two decades, this was the standard for many pilots preparing for flight.
But today, pilots are turning more and more to the iPad for their weather information and flight planning needs thanks to the high-quality apps coming from companies like ForeFlight, Garmin and WingX. When these iPad and iPhone apps first hit the scene about six years ago, they relied primarily on DUATS to provide the weather briefing and flight plan services. Over the last few years though, Lockheed Martin Flight Service (LMFS) has been rolling out next-generation weather briefing and flight planning tools that tie directly into the air traffic system, providing a significantly improved user experience.
ForeFlight has been on the front lines of this transition, providing users with the ability to file flight plans and retrieve weather briefings seamlessly with LMFS. In fact, unless you went out of your way to enter your personal DUATS credentials, you’ve been using LMFS for these functions for well over a year whether you knew it or not.
Last week, ForeFlight made another behind-the-scenes update that further takes advantage of the Lockheed Martin services. Now when you use the Route Advisor feature in ForeFlight, the app will suggest an Airway route using the LMFS route provider. ForeFlight sums the improvements up best on its blog:
This enhancement brings quicker response times and more accurate and direct routing for user-provided origin and destination pairs.
Lockheed Martin provides proper entries and exits onto and off of the airways so that clicking on the suggested route and loading it as a flight plan should be a seamless process. Previously this was not always the case with DUATS and some routes failed to load properly.
In addition to leveraging Lockheed Martin’s routing engine, we implemented server-side caching on routes that will provide an instant response for routes that have been recently searched by other users.
There is no app update required to take advantage – you’ll experience it the next time you open the app and use Route Advisor.
It’s no secret that DUATS’ days are limited. Its contract expired just a few weeks ago on March 16, and it’s now operating month to month as the FAA continues to evaluate and verify that the services they currently provide are obsolete, discontinued, or covered by other systems already in place.
ForeFlight has gone so far as to recommend pilots discontinue using the DUATS features in the app in favor of the modernized web service technologies provided by Lockheed Martin. This only requires that you remove your DUATS credentials by going to the More tab -> Accounts-> CSC DUATS, and then press Sign Out.