The Analog Airspace: Existing Air Traffic Control

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Air traffic control system in the NYC metro region is complicated, with coordinated handoffs between the Centers, Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and the Towers being a critical component of ensuring a successful and safe flight.

As an airplane approaches one of our three regional airports, it's controlled by four different facilities. Airlines staff Ramp Towers which control the movement of airplanes at their gates/aprons, and also sometimes on the taxiways (Continental at Newark). The Towers, which are staffed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), control the taxiways, runways, and airspace up to about five miles out and up to an altitude of 3,000 feet. The Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) controls the airspace up to fifty miles out and under 17,000ft. Finally, the Centers manage approaching aircraft farther than fifty miles out and above 17,000ft and en-route traffic. The controller's job is to direct the flight to its destination and ensure that the proper separation distances are maintained between all aircraft. 

The technology used to control aircraft today is virtually unchanged since the advent of national air traffic control systems in the 1950s. If the FAA does not incorporate new air traffic control technologies it will soon be forced to dramatically expand its workforce and possibly construct additional facilities to manage the forecasted increase in commercial passenger aircraft. Moreover, if the FAA simply expands its capacity while using the same technologies it will not result in improved system-wide performance, capacity or a reduction in delays. By incorporating NEXT-GEN, digital means of communication and control, the airspace will operate more efficiently, a reduction in separation distances will increase system capacity and reduce delays.

  • LGA
  • EWR
  • JFK
  • HPN
  • ISP
  • SWF
  • HVN
  • ABE
  • ACY
  • BDL

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