The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has started investing the first $1 billion of $5 billion into the country’s air traffic control system. The funding — made possible through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — will sustain, repair or replace hundreds of buildings and pieces of equipment that contribute to aviation safety.
“Air traffic control facilities are the nerve centers of our airspace system, and a big part of the reason why flying is the safest mode of transportation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will repair, replace and modernize the infrastructure that our air traffic control system relies on to keep the traveling public safe for generations to come.”
The FAA controls more than 5 million square miles of airspace in the U.S. and more than 24 million square miles over oceans. The air traffic system includes hundreds of towers at airports and terminal approach control facilities, which provide air traffic services to aircraft approaching and leaving busy airspace. It also includes centers handling aircraft at high-altitudes. These facilities depend on power systems, navigation and weather equipment, and radar and surveillance systems across the country.
“There’s a great deal of work needed to reduce the backlog of sustainment work, upgrades and replacement of buildings and equipment needed to operate our nation’s airspace safely. We are going to make sure small and disadvantaged businesses owned by women and minorities have the chance to do this work so we can expand jobs and opportunities across the country,” said FAA Deputy Administrator A. Bradley Mims.
Below is a breakdown of how the FAA will invest the $1 billion available in the first year of funding:
- Reinforce Navigation, Weather & Tracking Equipment: The FAA uses a host of communications, surveillance, weather and navigation systems to guide aircraft safely. It pledges to complete the backlog of supporting infrastructure sustainment projects to keep these systems reliable.
- Power Systems: Replace underground cables, transformers, switches at airports, engine generators and fuel storage tanks that are part of primary and back-up power systems for our air traffic systems.
- Enroute Flight Centers: Update and repair the country’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers that handle aircraft flying at high altitudes.
- Long-Range Radars: Renovate or replace the supporting infrastructure at long-range radar sites, which are critical to tracking flights between airports.
- Replace Towers: Pay for design, site evaluation and preparation for the first air traffic control towers that will be replaced over the coming years. Many of the towers selected will be located at regional and smaller airports.
- Improve Towers and Approach & Departure Facilities: More than 50 percent of U.S. towers and TRACON facilities, which handle flights entering and exiting busy airspace, are over 40 years old. Funding will pay for new elevators, plumbing systems, and supporting infrastructure.
- Environmental and Safety: Remove and restore areas where there are outdated facilities or personnel safety infrastructure that is no longer used and incorporate environmental and personnel safety updates.
- Personnel & Travel: Recruit and hire installation technicians and engineers needed to improve and modernize these facilities.
- Facility Security: Upgrade various integrated security systems at all FAA staffed facilities. Upgrades include those for guardhouses, visitor parking, fencing, perimeter hardening, window blast protection and lighting.