March 11, 2015 // Facility Spotlight: Kansas City Center
There are 220 NATCA members at Kansas City Center (ZKC), a level 11 facility located in Olathe, Kan.
ZKC is responsible for airspace covering nine Midwestern states, including most of Kansas and Missouri. ZKC handles a vast airspace and works with many other facilities including FAA approach controls at Wichita, Springfield, Mo., Kansas City, St. Louis TRACON, Springfield, Ill., Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Razorback Approach, Champaign, Evansville, and Terre Haute, as well as Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) (home of the B2), Vance AFB, Marshall GCA at Fort Riley, Kan., and Scott AFB. Despite not having a Core 30 airport or major hub, ZKC regularly performs en route spacing for surrounding facilities for aircraft going to Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago Midway, Denver, Phoenix, Washington Dulles, Washington National, New York-JFK, and Newark.
In addition to working a vast airspace, controllers at ZKC work a wide variety of aircraft according to FacRep Aaron Merrick. “Everything from test aircraft from Bombardier, Cessna, Boeing, and Gulfstream that have factories in Wichita, to military craft,” explains Merrick. “We have 14 aerial refueling routes, 56 different special use airspaces, MOAs, and 24 IR routes we work.”
Some of the things that set ZKC apart from other facilities relate to the diverse airspace it handles. “Since we support many facilities around us, with varying routes and requirements, we do not have a lot of structure in place,” Merrick says. “Our airspace has been termed the ‘Wild West’ by many controllers that have transferred here from other facilities because of the abundance of crossing routes and by virtue of being in the middle of the country. We have multiple MOAs and air refueling routes that pose unique challenges for the balancing of traffic flows.”
In addition to crossing and refueling routes, thunderstorm season presents unique challenges to the facility as storms typically form in their airspace as opposed to an already-formed line moving from west to east.
Adding to the unique airspace are several special events that take place every year. “During college football season, major colleges such as Kansas State University and the University of Missouri will send increased amounts of traffic into our airspace,” explains Merrick. “Kansas City is also home to the Kansas Speedway, which hosts two NASCAR races each year and requires special handling of the numerous aircraft that fly in for these events.”
ZKC holds several solidarity events throughout the year. “Our major event is the John Tune Memorial Invitational Golf Tournament,” says Merrick. “This tournament is in the memory of former ZKC controller and Central Regional Vice President John Tune. It benefits Kids TLC, a local children’s charity and is hosted by ZKC NATCA local with the help of the NATCA Charitable Foundation. Additionally, we have off-site get-togethers throughout the year, like holiday parties and bowling nights. We are also planning events for this year such as a solidarity barbeque and a NATCA outing to a Royals Game.
“Our facility has an ever-increasing NATCA membership, and we have a lot of members with a passion for getting involved and wanting to make a difference,” Merrick adds. “The best part of being FacRep is being able to represent good people and the support the local receives from the membership is fantastic. We have a good collaborative relationship with facility management due to the success of improving the collaborative environment here. It has led to a relationship with management that has a solid foundation of trust and cooperation.”