- Headquarters and Field Organization
- Air Traffic Services
- Research and Acquisitions
- Regulation and Certification
- Commercial Space Transportation
Air Traffic Services
Operating and maintaining the National Airspace System requires complex equipment and highly skilled personnel. This group of photos illustrates some of the chief elements of this vast enterprise.
The image at right shows the interior of a typical Airport Traffic Control Tower. The controllers here keep aircraft safely separated as they take off, land, and move along runways and taxiways. Nationwide, terminal air traffic controllers handle roughly 75,000 flights per day.
The FAA operates about 450 towers. They range from imposing spires at the Nation's busiest airports to relatively modest structures such as this one at Lawton, Oklahoma. (left)
As they enter and leave the immediate area of the airport, pilots receive guidance from Terminal Area Approach Control Facilities, known as TRACONs.
In the photo to the right, a controller at the El Paso TRACON is using the new Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS).
To increase efficiency in regions of high traffic volume, several TRACONs may be consolidated into large facilities such as the Southern California TRACON at San Diego, shown at left.
Flights proceeding between terminal areas come under the control of Air Route Traffic Control Centers, 21 of which are located throughout the Nation. The controller at right is using the new Display System Replacement (DSR) equipment recently implemented at these en route centers.
To the left is the Air Traffic Control System Command Center at Herndon, Va. Controllers here observe the "big picture" of traffic patterns nationwide and take action to speed the flow.
Flight Service specialists, such as the one shown at right, record the flight plans of pilots and provide them with weather briefings and other necessary data. Most of this work is carried on at 61 Automated Flight Service Stations nationwide.
Radar systems of several types provide data needed to keep the Airspace System operating. Surveillance radars keep controllers abreast of the positions of aircraft, while secondary radars gather altitude and identification data from airborne transponders. Airport Surface Detection Equipment tracks the movements of ground vehicles and taxiing planes. Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (left) help controllers to warn pilots of potentially dangerous conditions.
As they fly the airways, pilots rely on a network of navigation aids that the FAA operates throughout the country. An example is this Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range / Distance Measuring Equipment (VOR/DME) in northern Alaska. FAA is also applying satellite technology to air navigation and instrument landing.
A host of technical skills are required to keep all of this sophisticated equipment in working order. This vital responsibility belongs to the FAA's airway technicians, who represent the agency's second largest career field after air traffic control personnel.
To monitor the aispace system, the FAA maintains its own fleet of airplanes equipped with precision receivers, recorders, signal analyzers, and other devices. These aircraft assure the integrity of communications, radar, and navigation aids.
The National Airspace System is constantly evolving as new technology becomes avaialble, but its reliance on human teamwork remains constant.