ZFW ARTCC Tour - 25 August 2018

A dozen of us made the trek to the intersection of Texas 183 and Highway 360 to tour the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The C.R. Smith museum, the American Airlines Flagship University cafeteria, and the FAA ARTCC building are all somewhat co-located in the area bounded by Texas 183 to the north and Highway 360 to the east. It makes it fairly convenient to hit all three places as part of the tour.

Several of us visited the revamped C.R. Smith museum prior to lunch and the tour. One of the newest additions is a six foot diameter globe in the entry area. Apparently they are able to project a bunch of stuff on the globe but as they said, "we are still learning how to use the system". The morning of the tour they had it set up to show all of the AA flights and the OneWorld partner flights in the air all around the world! It was pretty cool. At the base of the globe they had interactive displays that would allow you to select airports all over the world and watch the air traffic in the those areas much like a FlightAware display. The museum added a few more kid friendly exhibits the kids could crawl around on and touch including the cockpit of an MD80. The good news is that is one less of those tin cans in service! The interactive "what if" scenarios in the middle of the museum were interesting although they definitely were spun to help AA soften the blow of flight delays due to weather.

After hanging out in a very well air conditioned museum for a bit, we strolled across the street to the AA Flagship University cafeteria. In the past, they had a wider variety of selections but on this day, it was a nice salad bar, a grill for sandwiches, and some dessert offerings. No lines, pretty fair food, and very reasonable prices. We were able to grab a long table and all sit together and tell lies. It is a very comfortable and convenient place to eat lunch and hang out between the museum and the FAA building.

Our tour was scheduled for 1 p.m. so we made our way down the street to the FAA Security office in time for them to scan us and our belongings and issue badges. Bryan Roberts met us a the guard shack and escorted us to the conference room. The presentation was similar to past presentations and outlined the varies sectors, boundaries as well as the six operational areas within ZFW. Those six operational areas are divided into thirty-five sectors comprise of sixteen low altitude sections (SFC-FL230) and nineteen high altitude sectors (>FL240). Majors Field is in the Quitman Sector and for us general aviation folks, specifically the Quitman Low, Sector 83 area. Bryan Roberts is a controller for the Quitman Low, Sector 83 area which made it a particularly interesting presentation. After the presentation and some questions and answers along the way, we all moved up the "floor". We were split among the various controllers and got to plug in and chat with a controller while they worked. Some of us even got to sit with the Quitman Low controller. Pretty cool. We moved over to the weather center and spent a few minutes with the on duty meteorologist. They have quite a nice set of displays at their finger tips and all kinds of weather data available to make their forecasts. It was interesting to see the NOAA Aviation Weather website being used by the meteorologist. Bryan took us back to the conference room for a question and answer period to end the tour. We had prepared a pretty good list of questions which he answered one by one as well as questions from the floor. The program is very focused on encouraging VFR pilots to take advantage of traffic advisories for both the benefit of the VFR pilot, other pilots, and the controllers.

It is a very enlightening program and one that every pilot should attend. The program really helps to demystify the intimidating ATC world!