Chicago ARTCC (1962-Active) - One of 22 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC)s in the United States. Established in 1962 near Aurora, Kane County, Illinois. Assigned an FAA ID of ZAU. Active FAA Air Traffic Control Center. Also known as Chicago Center.
The Chicago ARTCC (ZAU) was first established in the late 1950s at Midway Airport. The Chicago ARTCC is currently located at 619 West Indian Trail Road, Aurora, Illinois. Construction on the present location began circa 1958 and it was commissioned in 1962. The Chicago Center covers a part of the FAA's Central service area.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system of 24 FAA Area Control Centers, 20 in the lower 48 United States, one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in Puerto Rica and one in Guam. The system operates with radar data provided by FAA radar sites, DoD radar sites, and other federal agency radar sites. These centers provide en route and oceanic services to private, commercial, and military aircraft overflying their respective control areas. As aircraft enter or exit from one control area to the next, responsibility for the aircraft is transferred to the gaining ARTCC. Voice communication between aircraft and the ARTCCs is supported by a network of ground-air radio sites often co-located with the radar sites.
The gathering of radar, beacon and other sensor data are now largely automated and continuous, but the actions necessary to control the airspace are conversational and require some 14,000 FAA air traffic controllers talking directly to pilots in the air and on the ground at terminals. This number does not include military air traffic controllers.
Within Chicago Center, there are 16 underlying approach control facilities. The center’s 8 areas of specialization are comprised of 23 high altitude sectors and 24 low altitude sectors. It also has a Traffic Management Unit (TMU) located on the operational floor with the 8 areas. The TMU has a direct link to the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), commonly known as the ‘Command Center’. The Command Center manages the flow of traffic throughout the National Airspace System (NAS).
On 26 Sep 2014, a fire was deliberately set in the basement of the Chicago Center that damaged computer, communications and infrastructure facilities causing the center to evacuated and non-functional. The center then shifted operations to nearby Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities which were designed for shorter range and lower altitude operation. When this mode of operation proved to be sub-optimal, operations were removed to adjacent centers by moving Chicago Center controllers after controller positions were hastily reconfigured to display Chicago Center airspace and duplicate communications channels. The Chicago Center Aurora facility did not come back online until 13 Oct 2014. The arsonist entered a guilty plea in federal court in May of 2015, and in September 2015 received a prison term of only 12 1/2 years.
This incident highlighted the difficulties of restoring a failed facility that has a unique configuration that depends on localized hardware, software, and personal skills.
Note: This list includes only long-range FAA Radar Sites listed with this ARTCC as the Overlying Enroute Center. Adjacent ARTCC sector sites are not shown and short-range terminal radar sites are not shown.
Active FAA facility in Aurora, Kane County, Illinois.