The Traffic Management Unit (TMU) Command Center (DCC) is home to 74 NATCA members who specialize in four areas of the Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC); Terminal, Severe Weather, Central Altitude Reservation Function (CARF), and Support Staff. DCC also houses a U.S. Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) office. Those employees are assigned to the System Operations, Flight Service Organization.
The members assigned to the ATCSCC are certified at level 12. The TMU function started in 1970 on the sixth floor of FAA Headquarters. It moved to Herndon, Va., in 1994 and then to its present location, co-located with Potomac Consolidated TRACON (PCT), in Warrenton, Va., in 2011.
Members at DCC provide Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) for the entire National Airspace System (NAS). NATCA members coordinate with all FAA ARTCCs, major TRACONs and towers, as well as internationally with facilities all over the world.
According to FacRep Tony Smith, the traffic flow analysis and mitigation strategies provided by the ATCSCC team impact all civilian and military instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. In addition, the ATCSCC is responsible for the integration of new entrants into the NAS, including military and commercial space operations.
The Command Center is unique, as it is one of only a handful of dedicated traffic management facilities in the world.
“Our mission is to ensure the safety and efficiency of NAS operations through collaboration with all system stakeholders,” explains Smith. “It doesn't look, feel or function like traditional towers, TRACONs, or centers. All of our members come from all three air traffic options, all ATC levels, and from all over the country.”
While a majority of DCC’s workload is a result of weather, particularly convective activity, they are also impacted by special events. Traffic Management is all about capacity and demand according to Smith. Special events often generate excess demand for short periods, but unlike weather, come with the advance notice needed to collaborate with impacted facilities and stakeholders to manage this imbalance. The strategies developed provide shared situational and operational awareness between the ATCSCC, the local TMUs, airports, and industry during the event.
The facility hosts three internal general membership/solidarity meetings a year. Because of their close proximity and working relationships with PCT and Washington Center (ZDC), the membership often joins together to host joint solidarity events.
“Aside from the unique mission of the Command Center, we are also different in that we are a 100 percent volunteer workforce,” says Smith. “Everybody here wanted to come here. When you blend in a challenging and rewarding job and are surrounded by people who are happy to be here, good things happen.”
Smith explains that the best part of being the DCC FacRep is being able to help people get what they want.
“We have members involved in dozens of workgroups that are helping make the tools, equipment, and procedures we use in Traffic Management better,” Smith explains. “Collaboration is the cornerstone of our job function. Working in that environment day in and day out carries over naturally to our labor-management interactions. We have a very positive working relationship that is built on respect and trust.”