Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, people in an unassuming building along Indian Trail Road on the west side of Aurora control the fate of air travelers across parts of five states.
The airspace controlled from the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center facility is one of the smaller ones in the FAA system, but is the second busiest due to its proximity to O’Hare and Midway airports. Air traffic controllers there handle almost 3 million operations each year, tracking aircraft and notifying pilots to adjust their aircrafts’ speed, altitude and following distance to maximize safety and travel times.
The controllers eventually hand off aircraft control to airport towers or other control centers within the FAA system. They also help aircraft navigate through or around dangerous weather systems with the help of in-house meteorologists. The meteorologists feed real-time and projected weather information to the controllers in contact with all the pilots within Chicago center’s geographical area.
The facility also houses training rooms where controllers prepare for the demands of the job. Pictures showing air traffic control radar screens were shot in those rooms — even we weren’t allowed inside the control rooms due to the sensitive nature of the work taking place.
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