Air traffic

FAA hires 30 new air traffic controllers for Hilliard Center

HILLIARD, Florida. – Thirty air traffic controllers have been hired for the Federal Air Traffic Control Center in Hilliard, a source familiar with the Federal Aviation Administration plan told News4JAX.

According to the FAA, flights have increased by 150 to 170 percent at some airports in the Sunshine State, and the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, which controls airspace in northern Florida and South Georgia, is the one of the busiest in the United States.

These maps show how far southeast air traffic has shifted from 2016 to 2022. (The darker dots are the densest traffic areas.)

Along with increased travel demand, Hilliard airspace has its usual challenges with military flights and space launches. And the summer flying season also faces disruptions from weather, thunderstorms and tropical systems.

In a statement Friday to News4JAX, the FAA said it does not have a shortage of air traffic controllers, but more controllers have been added to the Jacksonville-area team due to other factors.

“The FAA has no shortage of system-wide air traffic controllers. Many factors contribute to air travel delays and cancellations in Florida. The leading cause of flight delays and cancellations by airlines is the convective weather in Florida. Second is the demand for travel to Florida. The FAA works with airlines to share information to keep planes moving safely when weather and other airspace events limit capacity. The FAA is placing additional air traffic controllers at facilities in Florida to support our long-term staffing strategy to meet increased traffic demand. More controllers have been added to the Jacksonville team to meet demand. To reiterate, weather, airline issues and airspace demand in Florida are the leading causes of travel problems in Florida,” the statement said.

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The hires could alleviate some of the flight delays Florida airports have experienced.

According to federal data:

  • About 37% of delays at Jacksonville International Airport are due to equipment, crew or aircraft fueling issues.

  • About 28% of delays are caused by an aircraft arriving late.

  • Another 24% of delays are problems with the national aviation system.

  • Weather, cancellations, diversions and security delays account for the remaining 11%.

According to the FAA, the Hilliard Center is responsible for approximately 160,000 square miles of airspace in five states, covering Panhandle flights in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa. It also covers flights in Southeast Georgia and parts of Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina.

The airspace controlled by the facility includes more than 20 military airports and approximately 225 civilian airports, according to the FAA webpage for the center. The page also says that center-wide, its average daily traffic is around 8,600 transactions, with traffic peaking at over 9,770 transactions in one day. According to the page, 50% of the center’s traffic is air, 30% is general aviation and 20% is military.

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In May, the Associated Press reported, the FAA announced it would add personnel to the key air traffic control center in the Jacksonville area and other locations, although it did not provide personnel. numbers at the time.

The promise came during a two-day meeting between FAA officials and representatives from a dozen airlines. Airlines have told the FAA that the number of flights in Florida will exceed 2019 levels.

Air traffic to Florida has resumed faster during the pandemic than many other places, and airlines have scheduled even more flights for this summer. This raises concerns about the potential for massive disruption that could spread far beyond state borders.

This shaded map shows air traffic in 2022. (The darker dots are the densest traffic areas.)

Some passengers News4JAX spoke to at the JIA on Friday said they saw minor delays.

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“Most of our trips were on time. The first plane was a bit delayed, but that was about it,” said Peyton Jones, who was traveling with her family.

And some offered advice for summer travelers.

“That’s the best advice, I advise everyone, ‘Be on time and don’t be late,'” said Alfred Anderson Jr., who was traveling to Michigan.

It may sound like a cliché, but in fact, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Aviation Authority said travelers should plan to arrive at the airport earlier than usual to account for the increase in summer travel. .

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