Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC)

Thousands of flights. Numerous challenges. Just a typical day for System Operations.

The David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC) was established in 1970 at FAA Headquarters in Washington, DC to identify solutions to air traffic inefficiencies in the National Air Space System (NAS). After relocating to Herndon, Virginia in 1994, the ATCSCC was permanently moved to its Warrenton, Virginia site in 2011. This one-of-a-kind facility is dedicated to balancing the nation's air traffic demand with system capacity. 

The  FAA  coordinates up to 50,000 flights in the U.S. per day; over a quarter of the world’s scheduled flights arrive at or depart from U.S. airports. With 5,000 aircraft in the nation’s skies during the busiest periods, 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. Stakeholders include:

  • Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs)
  • Terminal Radar Approach Control Facilities (TRACONs)
  • Air Traffic Control Towers (ATCTs)
  • Aviation Industry Partners

The ATCSCC Team uses traffic management initiatives (TMIs) to manage the flow of air traffic and minimize delays. TMIs may include:

  • Airborne Metering,
  • Miles-in-Trail,
  • Reroutes,
  • Ground Delay Programs,
  • Ground Stops,
  • Airspace Flow Programs

TMIs are also used to mitigate the impact of NAS events caused by:

  • Weather,
  • Equipment Outages,
  • Runway Closures,
  • National Emergencies

The Command Center is home to the Space Data Integrator (SDI). The SDI is a team of air traffic and commercial space transportation experts that track commercial launch and reentry operations, the status of various mission events, and the display of aircraft hazard areas. The team uses automated data to make airspace management decisions about aircraft routes and schedules during launch and reentry operations. To monitor a mission, a team of FAA air traffic and aerospace experts known as the Joint Space Operations Group (JSpOG), gathers operational data and sends the data using FAA communications tools to adapt airspace usage with incoming and outgoing operations. 

The FAA’s Potomac Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) is also co-located 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 highly technical employees work at the facilities to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the NAS.

The integration of new entrants, including Space Operations and Un-crewed Aircraft Systems (UAS), presents unique NAS challenges in addition to the usual system constraints. The ATCSCC remains vigilant and agile by adopting new strategies to evolve with the NAS. One example is PERTI (Plan, Execute, Review, Train, and Improve). This advance planning team evaluates the next day's weather and potential issues to determine what TMIs might be needed to mitigate the constraints and balance demand with capacity.

Last updated: Thursday, January 04, 2024