FAA to Spend $1 Billion to Improve America’s Air Traffic Control System
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will spend $1 billion over the next year to improve America’s air traffic control (ATC) system.
The $1 billion is part of $5 billion total that the FAA is slated to receive in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to sustain, repair or replace hundreds of buildings and pieces of equipment that are tasked with keeping flying safe in the United States.
“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.”
FAA Controls More Than 5 Million Square Miles of Airspace in the U.S.
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, according to the FAA, 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 22 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.
The FAA projects that this funding supports will create jobs for local suppliers, construction workers and communities nationwide.
Breakdown of How the FAA Will Invest $1 Billion in Year One
Here is a breakdown of where the FAA will be spending the $1 billion over the next 12 months to improve the ATC:
- Power Systems ($295 million): Replace underground cables, transformers, switches at airports, engine generators and fuel storage tanks that are part of primary and back-up power systems for U.S. air traffic systems
- Enroute Flight Centers ($233.6 million): Update and repair the country’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers that handle aircraft flying at high altitudes.
- Reinforcing Navigation, Weather & Tracking Equipment ($199.9 million): The FAA uses a host of communications, surveillance, weather, and navigation systems to guide aircraft safely. Funding will allow completion of the backlog of supporting infrastructure sustainment projects to keep these systems reliable.
- Improve Towers/Approach & Departure Facilities ($81.5 million): More than 50 percent of FAA towers and Terminal Radar Approach Control (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.
- Long Range Radar ($78.9 million): Renovate or replace the supporting infrastructure at long-range radar sites, which are critical to tracking flights between airports.
- Environmental Safety ($58.8 million): Remove and restore areas where we have outdated facilities or personnel safety infrastructure that is no longer used and incorporate environmental and personnel safety updates.
- Personnel & Travel ($24 million): Recruit and hire installation technicians and engineers needed to improve and modernize these facilities.
- Facility Security ($18.3 million): 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.
- Replace Towers ($10 million): 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.
The $1 Billion is Just Part of $5 Billion Total in Funding
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a total of $5 billion in funding, $1 billion per year over five years to upgrade the foundation of the FAA’s air traffic control.
The FAA says to think of the funding “as a down payment to reduce our backlog of needed maintenance, updates, upgrades and replacement of critical buildings and equipment needed to operate our nation’s airspace safely. The work at buildings and equipment around the country will create jobs for local suppliers, construction workers and communities.”
The FAA “Building a Better Air Traffic System” video says that “America’s National Airspace System is the largest, most complex system in the world. And this is all possible because of the network of people, procedures and equipment that we have to make sure that millions of people fly throughout our airspace system safely and seamlessly.”
Buttigieg in the video stresses in the video that if you “look at the complexity of the operations … even a few minutes offline would be incredibly disruptive.
The FAA says there will be many opportunities for airports and businesses to get involved in building better airports across America.
To participate in funding opportunities as they become available, businesses should:
- Register your business with SAM (System Award Management)
- Review the FAA’s contracting guide
- Learn about FAA’s acquisition policies and guidance
- Understand the policies designed to increase reliance on domestic suppliers
For airports, they should:
- Learn about what types of projects are generally eligible
- Submit projects following the established Airports Capital Improvement Process (ACIP)
- Understand the procurement process which will be the same general process as the FAA Airport Improvement Program grants
- Understand obligations and contractual provisions and clauses when dealing with vendors
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