The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently dedicated a new air traffic control facility to better handle the expected growth in flight operations in the Houston area. Deputy FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker attended the dedication, joined by Acting FAA Southwest Region Administrator Michael O’Harra, Houston City Council Member Stephen Costello and Mario Diaz, Director of Aviation for the Houston Airport System.
The 47,500 square-foot Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) replaces an outdated structure that was commissioned more than 40 years ago. The new TRACON is located on 21 acres of land at George Bush Intercontinental Airport that is being leased from the City of Houston at no cost.
“This new TRACON is a symbol of the future of air traffic control in the United States,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We will continue to invest in facilities such as this as we continue advancing NextGen, moving toward satellite-based technology to meet the growing air traffic demand in our major metropolitan areas.”
NextGen is a program to upgrade the nation’s aviation infrastructure to provide more precise navigation and more direct routes, increase safety and efficiency in the system and facilitate the expected growth in air traffic while decreasing fuel consumption, saving money and reducing the impact on the environment.
“This new air traffic control facility was designed to allow air traffic controllers to take advantage of numerous technologies now being deployed as part of the NextGen air traffic modernization program,” said Deputy FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker. “TRACON controllers in Houston are currently undergoing training on flight procedures that will make traffic in the Houston safer and more efficient than ever.”
The Houston TRACON is responsible for controlling air traffic over roughly 16,000 square miles of airspace stretching from the Texas-Louisiana border to approximately 35 miles east of Austin and from Galveston to 30 miles north of College Station. In Fiscal Year 2013, Houston TRACON controllers directed more than 940,000 individual aircraft operations.
Approximately 218 controllers, managers and technical support personnel work at the new TRACON. The facility is equipped with computers and color radar displays that allow controllers to take advantage of the increased efficiency and safety that comes with NextGen air traffic control. The FAA began using the new TRACON in September 2013. The total cost of the project, including construction and new electronic equipment, was about $50 million.