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When using an aircraft radio to call a Flight Service Station ("FSS"), why do pilots refer to them as "radio?" I understand calling control towers "tower", ground control "ground", Air Route Traffic Control Centers ("ARTCC") "Center", and so on, but why "radio" for a Flight Service Station? Why isn't it "Station?"

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect it is a holdover from the early days, “The beginnings of FSS date back to the World War I era, where radio operators assisted air mail pilots flying across the US. In addition to weather functions, they also assisted with a basic form of Air Traffic Control. As aviation grew in the 1920s and 30s, these radio operations expanded and made their services available to any pilot who requested it. Fast forward to 1960, shortly after the creation of the FAA, and the first Flight Service Stations were unveiled.” studentpilotnews.com/2014/02/10/… $\endgroup$ – JScarry Jul 4 '17 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry I suspect you are correct. I would love to hear form some old-timer pilot or FAA employee to give us the back story on this. I might need to call my 90+ year old primary flight instructor to ask for the scoop. $\endgroup$ – Devil07 Jul 4 '17 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ I guess they are just "radio", with no authority to give clearance whatsoever. $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Jul 4 '17 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the answer to why pilots call them this way is because the regulations say we must - but that's not your real question. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Jul 5 '17 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ @DanHulme good point! We call them that because we were told to call them that. As you eluded, the real question is where did "Radio" come from, all the other names make sense. I guess there aren't many old timers on here. $\endgroup$ – Devil07 Jul 24 '17 at 22:03
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"Radio" is just a shortened version of "Aeradio Station" which was the term used before "Flight Service Station".

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    $\begingroup$ Was it referred to as Aeradio within the United States? $\endgroup$ – Devil07 Jul 17 '17 at 19:44
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    $\begingroup$ Whether it is or not, "X Radio" is also the correct form in the UK and Eire (possibly other places too), so the origin might not be US-specific. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Jul 25 '17 at 8:06
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"Radio" is the default suffix for all ground radio stations; there are many other standard suffixes (e.g. Ground, Tower) that are used instead when they apply, but there's not one for FSS, so they're stuck with the default.

Note that each country can organize their ATSUs how they see fit, and the way the US has split FSS into something separate from ATC is unusual, perhaps even unique, which is why there's not a standard suffix for it.

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