Air Traffic Control
With so many planes in the air, did you ever wonder how they know where to go and how to avoid one another?
The air traffic control at each airport coordinates the movements of aircraft in the area and keeps them at safe distances from one another. They tell each plane when they can safely take off and land. And they help the plane go around bad weather.
You can see the air traffic control in the tower at the airport. Inside are men and women specially trained to use equipment and know where the planes are at all times.
And that's important, because on any given day, there are about 50,000 aircraft in our skies. That's a lot of planes!
The whole system is run by a part of the U.S. government called the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The movement of aircraft through the various airspace divisions is much like players moving through a "zone" defense that a basketball or football team might use. As an aircraft travels through a given airspace division, it is monitored by the one or more air traffic controllers responsible for that division. The controllers monitor the plane and give instructions to the pilot. As the plane leaves that airspace division and enters another, the air traffic controller passes it off to the controllers responsible for the new airspace division.
Sounds easy, but it's really a tough job. Thankfully, they do a terrific job for us everyday!