Facility Spotlight: Anchorage Center (ZAN)
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Approximately 110 NATCA members work at Anchorage Center (ZAN), a level 10 facility commissioned in 1964.

ZAN controllers work closely with Edmonton, Vancouver, Japan, Oakland Center (ZOA), Magadan and Anadyr in Russia, Anchorage Tower (ANC), Anchorage TRACON (A11), Fairbanks Tower and TRACON (FAI), Juneau (JNU), Kodiak (ADQ), King Salmon (AKN) and Bethel (BET). They work with many NATCA-represented Flight Service Stations as well, including those located in Barrow, Deadhorse, Nome, and Kotzeue. Due to the close proximity to Russia, ZAN works with NORAD and many military control locations. 

ZAN is responsible for a large airspace that extends from the North Pole, southwest towards Japan, and southeast almost to Seattle. ZAN’s airspace is joined with those of Japan, Russia, and Canada. Aircraft passing through ZAN airspace include everything from F-22s to Cessna 150s.

As one can imagine, Alaskan weather and terrain are two big issues that make for a unique experience working at ZAN. Compared to facilities further south, ZAN does a lot of traditional non-radar due to the lack of radar coverage.

ZAN Facility Representative Clint Lancaster says, “It isn’t uncommon at ZAN to have seven to eight airplanes in holding at an airport and not be able to see any of them.”

Red Flag operations take place at ZAN four times a year. During this event, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Germany, and other countries bring fighters, tankers, and E-3s from their air forces.  

Lancaster says, “It can get pretty exciting and super busy.”

Outside of the facility, ZAN controllers participate in a pilot vs. controller softball game. Lancaster says it’s been gaining popularity in the region. ZAN also does NATCA Reloaded hockey events.

“We have a great NATCA atmosphere in Alaska in general,” he said. “We have a very young workforce that is beginning to get energized about the union and there is a lot of excitement about the future of the Alaskan Region. There is no better avenue to facilitate change than through NATCA and I love being a leader in any capacity for this great Union.”