David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center

Monday, November 7, 2022

If you think of our National Airspace System (NAS) as a symphony, the Command Center is the conductor. 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 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 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.

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), located at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System David J. Hurley Air Traffic Control System Command Center, 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) and Command Center are 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 high-tech employees work at the two facilities to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the NAS.