What We Do
Jacksonville Center is one of twenty domestic enroute air traffic control centers. We are the controllers that talk to the pilots of your flights "in between" your departure and destination airports. (Jax to Lax example) Approach controls (towers) have a much smaller area of control, usually about fifty miles or so within the vicinity of a major airport, and a maximum altitude of 23,000 feet. Centers can "own" airspace from the surface up to and including 60,000 feet.
This center is responsible for approximately 160,000 square miles of airspace — airspace that covers parts of five states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina. Our northeastern boundary is close to Wilmington, North Carolina, our western is near Mobile, Alabama, our southern lies just north of Orlando, and we are responsible for parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. We also control the airspace over twenty military airports and about 225 civilian airports. Center-wide, our average daily traffic count is approximately 8600 operations, with our peak traffic being over 9770 operations in one day. Fifty percent of our traffic is air carrier, thirty percent general aviation, and twenty percent is military.
In order for a center to manage its airspace efficiently, it is subdivided into areas of specialization, and then each area is again divided into sectors. At Jacksonville Center, we have six areas and 42 operational sectors — between six and nine sectors per area. When traffic is at its heaviest, all of our thirty-eight sectors will be open, or "split off", but as the traffic decreases (weekends or later in the evenings), sectors are combined up so that one controller or a radar team can work a larger area of airspace.
Who We Are
A typical radar team consists of a radar controller, who communicates with the pilots, and is responsible for the operation of the sector, and the radar-associate controller, who assists the radar person by reading flight plans and identifying aircraft that will be in conflict, or that need to be rerouted. The radar-associate controller also coordinates traffic movements with other sectors and facilities. One other member of the control team is the tracker, an additional radar controller used when a sector has an unusually high volume of traffic.
When a new hire (developmental) reports to the center to begin controller training, he or she is assigned to an area of specialization, where they must qualify on all positions and sectors within that area. It takes about two and a half years for a person to reach journeyman, or Certified Professional Controller (CPC) status. Controller training involves academic study, both classroom and computer assisted laboratory simulations, and on-the-job instruction. Once achieving CPC, controllers are subject to continual refresher training, through team and facility briefings, required reading, and computer and laboratory lessons.
Jacksonville Center is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and three hundred and sixty-five (or 366) days a year. In order to provide continuous coverage in the control room, we work varied shifts — some combination of day, swing, and mid. (A controller typically works about two hours on position, with thirty-minute breaks between sessions.) Days off and vacation times are determined by a bidding procedure based on seniority.
The facility workforce is comprised of over 320 controllers, 10 staff specialists, 85 Airway Facilities employees, (the technicians that maintain the building and equipment, and their support personnel) and numerous contract employees. Offices supporting control room operations include Safety, Airspace and Procedures, Training, Military Operations, Requirements, Security, Human Resources, Flight Data, Traffic Management, and the Center Weather Service Unit.
Folklore – Why Hilliard?
Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center opened December, 1941, at Imeson Airport in Jacksonville, Florida. In February, 1961, Jax ARTCC moved to Hilliard. WHY?
As the story goes, this era (late 50's - 60's) was a time of political tension; Cold War, Castro, Communism and Missiles. As Jacksonville is the home of three Navy bases, it was considered a prime target. The idea was to move the Center as far away from "ground zero" as possible. Most Centers constructed during this time frame are geographically removed from major metropolitan areas.