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How the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Works

Research and Development

The FAA is constantly researching, developing and implementing new programs, technologies and methods that will improve aviation. Of the organization's $8.4-billion budget for 2007, $130 million has been allocated for research and development [source: FAA Administrator's Fact Book]. The FAA even has several sub-organizations dedicated to research and development, such as the Office of Aviation Research.

The key areas of FAA research include:

Photo courtesy
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Host and Oceanic System
Replacement (HOCSR)

Air traffic management and control

  • Aviation weather
  • Navigation systems
  • Aircraft noise pollution
  • Airport security
  • Energy conservation
  • Aviation technology
  • Satellite technology
  • Surveillance systems
  • Communications systems
  • Landing systems
  • Systems science
  • Commercial space transportation

The photo above is an example of the type of research conducted by the FAA. In this photo, you see the Host and Oceanic System Replacement (HOCSR), a very powerful computer system used in the ARTCCs [source: FAA press release]. HOCSR is a development system used to field-test various programs designed to enhance the speed and safety of aircraft.

Photo courtesy Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)­
An experimental airport surveillance radar system being tested at William J. Hughes Technical Center.

The main FAA research facility is the William J. Hughes Technical Center, where around 150 research programs are in development at any given time. The center is also home to security initiatives including the Federal Air Marshal Program, the Transportation Security Laboratory and Aviation Security Research and Development (AAR-500). A key part of AAR-500's mission is to anticipate future threats to U.S. aviation. As part of AAR-500, the Aviation Security Laboratory develops preventative measures and countermeasures for such threats.

According to the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, the AAR-500 has four research and development areas:

  • Explosives and weapons detection
  • Aircraft hardening
  • Human factors
  • Airport security technology integration

To improve safety and security for air travel passengers, the FAA, the Joint Planning and Development Office, and other agencies are currently upgrading the air traffic management system with satellite technology and advanced networking to improve air management control. The improved system will allow an increase in system capacity with fewer delays and bottlenecks. Check out the links below for comprehensive information on some of the FAA's research and development programs:

For more information on the FAA, aviation and airports, see the links on the following page.



Related HowStuffWorks Links

More Great Links


  • A Brief History of the Federal Aviation Administration
  • The FAA Administrator's Fact Book
  • "Aircraft Security Accomplishments Since Sept. 11"
  • "Improvements in Civil Aviation Security Since Pan Am 103"
  • 9/11 Commission Sept. 2005 Staff Report
  • National Airspace System Frequently Asked Questions
  • FAA TRACON Fact Sheet
  • FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers
  • Summary of FAA Activities
  • FAA Air Traffic System Requirements
  • "Host and Oceanic Computer System Replacement Program" Press Release
  • "William J. Hughes Technical Center"
  • National Research and Development Plan For Aviation Safety, Security, Efficiency, and Environmental Compatibility