On Friday nearly two dozen members of AOPA's Communications Division spent the day with air traffic controllers at the Potomac Consolidated Terminal Radar Approach Control (Tracon) facility in Vint Hill, Va.
"As representatives of AOPA, and as pilots who fly in the most restricted airspace in the country, it is imperative that we have a good working relationship with air traffic controllers," said Jeff Myers, AOPA executive vice president of communications. "It was gracious of the staff at Potomac Tracon to invite us to their facility for the opportunity to discuss issues face to face."
Tracon controllers took the AOPA visitors on a tour of the operations room, while encouraging questions and comments. A popular topic of discussion was the Washington-area Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which has increased the controllers' workload significantly since it was imposed in early 2003.
AOPA staff members asked how pilots could better communicate when their flights include entrance into, or departure from, the ADIZ. The air traffic controllers informed the pilots on the proper procedures, and advised them not to get too close to the ADIZ boundary without following those procedures, to avoid violating the airspace.
Other questions led to an explanation of the sectors controlled by Potomac Tracon, a discussion of the responsibilities of traffic flow managers as they work with changing weather and other demands, and a demonstration of how radar weather is overlaid onto controllers' screens so they can better assist pilots who request deviations.
Potomac Tracon was commissioned in December 2002 and incorporates what previously had been tracons at five airports - Baltimore-Washington International, Dulles International, Reagan National, Andrews Air Force Base, and Richmond International.
Air traffic controllers at Potomac Tracon use technologically advanced workstations arranged in circles around the operations room. The sector controllers, traffic flow managers, and supervisors are responsible for approximately 23,000 square miles of airspace from the surface to Flight Level 230. Airspace maps and radio frequencies can be found on the tracon's Web site.
November 22, 2006