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Air Traffic Control Day 2020

Posted by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao

Air Traffic Control Day gives a grateful nation an opportunity to thank the men and women who do so much to keep America’s busy skies safe.   Before COVID-19 began affecting air travel, America’s air traffic controllers handled more than 16,100,000 flights year.  More than 14,000 air traffic controllers manage up to 5,000 planes in the air at one time, in 5.3 million square miles of airspace over land, and an additional 24 million square miles over water. 

This is a tough, critical, and high-pressure job under normal conditions, but it was made even harder when COVID-19 began affecting the country.  The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilitated almost 900 flights so more than 80,000 U.S. citizens could return home from overseas.  And they facilitated more than 800 FEMA flights which delivered medical personnel more than a billion pieces of protective equipment and other vital supplies.

The Air Traffic Controllers responded to the COVID challenge with creative solutions, such as carefully grouping personnel in teams and ensuring rapid response sanitization efforts for towers across the country.  Operations were adjusted in other ways to ensure that the air traffic control system was resilient, as well as responsive.

During the past  several months, air traffic controllers have played an important role in keeping America’s air space operational.   The aviation sector contributes $1.6 trillion to the U.S. economy each year and generates 10 million jobs, but it was affected deeply as shutdowns were implemented.  In response, Congress passed, and President Trump signed on March 27, 2020, the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help employers, including those in the aviation sector, weather the difficulties.  The Treasury Department dispensed about $50 billion to the airline industry, including travel agents as well as companies that provide ground support of all kinds to airlines at airports.  The Department of Transportation worked to ensure $10 billion in CARES Act funding was made available to airports so they could retain employees, remain safe, clean, and operational.

July 6, 2020 is a great time to give a huge shout-out to Air Traffic Controllers for the GREAT job they’ve been doing!  We appreciate so much everything you do for our country!  The U.S. Air Traffic Control System was formally established 84 years ago, on July 6, 1936.  So this is a great time to thank air traffic controllers and technicians for helping keep air travel safe and ready to help our economy return to economic growth.