ATC System Command Center Balances Demand with Capacity

If you think of our National Airspace System as a symphony, the David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center is the conductor. The FAA says it’s a 24/7 operation where staff set the traffic flow for the entire day.

The role of the Command Center is to balance air traffic demand with system capacity.  The Traffic Management Specialists plan and regulate the flow of air traffic to minimize delays and congestion while maximizing the overall use of the National Airspace System (NAS).

When adverse weather, equipment outages, runway closures or other significant events impact an airport, specialists at the Command Center adjust traffic demands to meet system capacity.

The FAA coordinates up to 43,000 flights in the U.S. per day, managing 70 percent of the world’s daily operations. With 5,000 aircraft in the nation’s skies at any given moment, numerous experts from government agencies and the aviation industry work seamlessly through a process called collaborative decision making to manage current and future constraints in the system. They discuss flight planning, weather, runway construction, the movement of dignitaries, and other issues that may impact the system.

The Command Center is co-located with the FAA’s Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Warrenton, VA. Controllers at the Potomac TRACON monitor aircraft approaching and departing the Washington metropolitan area, including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Joint Base Andrews. About 600 high-tech employees work at the two facilities to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the NAS.

Check out this Flight Across America video which follows a flight based on an actual flight plan.