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What is ARTCC in Aviation? (Air Route Traffic Control Centers)

Updated: February 18, 2024

Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC): The Backbone of Aviation

When it comes to ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel, there are several key components involved. One of these crucial elements is the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC), also known as en-route centers. ARTCCs play a vital role in managing the flow of air traffic across the United States, providing guidance and control for aircraft operating in their respective regions. In this article, we will explore the functions, structure, and significance of ARTCCs in the aviation industry.

What are Air Route Traffic Control Centers?

Air Route Traffic Control Centers, abbreviated as ARTCCs, are facilities responsible for controlling and supervising the movement of aircraft within a designated airspace. These centers serve as the nerve centers of the National Airspace System (NAS) in the United States. There are currently 21 ARTCCs strategically located throughout the country, each responsible for a specific geographic area.

ARTCCs are operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and are staffed by air traffic controllers who specialize in en-route control. These controllers are responsible for ensuring the safe separation of aircraft, providing navigational assistance, and issuing clearances to pilots. They use radar systems, communication equipment, and advanced computer systems to monitor and manage the flow of air traffic within their jurisdiction.

Each ARTCC is further divided into sectors, with each sector assigned to a specific group of air traffic controllers. These sectors are responsible for managing a specific volume of airspace, ensuring that aircraft maintain proper separation and follow designated routes. By dividing the airspace into sectors, ARTCCs can effectively handle a high volume of air traffic and prevent congestion.

The Functions of ARTCCs

1. Air Traffic Control

The primary function of ARTCCs is to provide air traffic control services to pilots operating within their jurisdiction. Air traffic controllers stationed at ARTCCs communicate directly with pilots, ensuring safe separation between aircraft and providing necessary instructions. Through radar surveillance, controllers can track the position, altitude, and speed of aircraft, allowing them to maintain proper separation and prevent potential conflicts.

ARTCC controllers are also responsible for issuing clearances to pilots, including departure, arrival, and en-route instructions. These clearances ensure that aircraft follow designated flight paths and maintain a safe distance from other aircraft. By coordinating with neighboring ARTCCs, controllers can seamlessly transfer control of aircraft as they transition between different sectors and regions.

2. Weather Monitoring and Alerts

Another critical function of ARTCCs is weather monitoring and dissemination of weather information to pilots. ARTCCs receive real-time weather data from various sources, including weather radar, weather satellites, and meteorological agencies. Controllers analyze this information and provide pilots with timely updates on weather conditions along their planned route.

By receiving up-to-date weather information, pilots can make informed decisions regarding flight paths and altitudes to avoid hazardous weather conditions. ARTCCs also issue weather advisories and alerts to pilots, notifying them of significant weather phenomena such as thunderstorms, icing conditions, or turbulence. This information is vital for pilots to ensure the safety of their aircraft and passengers.

3. Emergency Assistance

In times of emergency, ARTCCs play a crucial role in coordinating and assisting aircraft in distress. Air traffic controllers at ARTCCs are trained to handle emergency situations and provide guidance to pilots in need. Whether it's an engine failure, medical emergency, or loss of communication, controllers at ARTCCs are trained to respond quickly and effectively.

In the event of an emergency, ARTCC controllers can provide pilots with alternative routes, direct them to the nearest suitable airports, and coordinate with other relevant agencies, such as search and rescue teams. Their expertise and timely assistance can make a significant difference in ensuring a safe outcome for aircraft in distress.


Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs) are the backbone of the aviation industry, providing essential air traffic control services and ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel. Through their functions of air traffic control, weather monitoring, and emergency assistance, ARTCCs play a vital role in managing the flow of air traffic across the United States.

As technology advances and air travel continues to grow, the role of ARTCCs will become even more critical. With their expertise, dedication, and advanced systems, ARTCCs will continue to be at the forefront of ensuring the safe and seamless movement of aircraft through the skies.

For more information about Air Route Traffic Control Centers, you can visit the Federal Aviation Administration's website.

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