The Surprising Death of DUATS

By Scott Spangler on March 26th, 2018

Image result for duatsReading that the FAA will end its contract for the Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS) on May 16, 2018, caught me by surprise. The surprise was not that the FAA was not renewing its support of the service. The surprise was that it had already done so around the turn of the century. Clearly, I need learn to pay closer attention to such things.

DUATS was born in 1989, about the time Flight Training magazine arrived in the world, back when computers were the new and exciting frontier that ended landline calls to 1-800-WxBrief and waiting on hold for a briefer. There were two different contractors competing for the attention of pilots, and their advertising revenue was certainly welcomed by the new publication.

More exciting was the no-wait weather briefing and other services DUATS provided—at no charge! And with time, each iteration of the provider’s proprietary software that automatically downloaded the selected weather products expanded the menu of meteorological goodies on offer. To this day, when I hear the nostalgic sound of a dial-up modem making its connection, I think not of “You’ve got mail!” but “You’ve got flying weather!”

Image result for flight service 1800 wx briefBut as broadband and Wi-Fi supplanted dial up, Internet weather sources were easier to access, and there were so many to choose from! As my attention was diverted (distracted?) elsewhere, as often happens, what you don’t regularly see ceases to exist. And isn’t the same thing happening to websites that haven’t kept up and redesigned their sites to automatically format themselves to the device that displays them?

What is more heartwarming is that it seems what goes around comes around. Without digging too deeply in to a service comparison, it seems that the flight service (smart phone compatible) website——provides most, if not all of a pilot’s flight planning needs, and for free! Ultimately, technological progress seems to be a merry go round, but getting a good preflight briefing has never lost its important contribution to aviation safety. –Scott Spangler, Editor

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