FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers
FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers (1960-Present) - A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system of 25 Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC)s operated 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.
In addition to the 25 FAA ARTCCs, there are 160 FAA Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facilities that provide services at terminals (airfields) these facilities have separate supporting radar and radio systems. The nation's military airfields generally provide their own terminal services or share with FAA facilities when the airfields are joint use with civil aviation.
The gathering of radar and other sensor data is 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.
En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM)
In 2015 the FAA completed a major upgrade to both the ARTCCs and to the underlying FAA portion of the radar system. The ERAM program replaced the 40-year-old En Route Host computer and backup system used at 20 FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers. That same year the FAA finished modifying all of their legacy radars (mostly modified FPS-20 derivatives and ARSR-1 thru 3 radars) to the new Common Air Route Surveillance Radar (CARSR). According to the FAA, En Route controllers are now able to track 1,900 aircraft at a time instead of the previous 1,100 flight capability of each center. Coverage now extends beyond ARTCC boundaries into adjacent sectors. This extended coverage is possible because the new computer system can process data from 64 radars versus the 24 radar capacity with the old system.