The Federal Aviation Administration is making a big move from Andersen Air Force Base to the first of its kind state-of-the-art facility in Tiyan Guam which will set the standard for future FAA facilities nationwide.

The departure from a facility adjacent to the control tower at Andersen means leaving the only home the FAA has had on Guam since it was established on the island in 1959. That was a year after the Federal Aviation Act put the federal agency in charge of monitoring all the country’s aircraft movements civilian and military.

Tim Cornelison air traffic manager for the FAA on Guam said the move to the ultramodern facility known as the Guam Combined Control Facility occurs at a time when air traffic in the region is quickly increasing. He said his controllers handle 400 to 500 aircraft a day in the 200 000-square-mile region that they watch closely. “Technically the FAA is responsible for air traffic control within a 250-mile radius of Guam ” Cornelison said. “We provide radar-approach control and departure control and provide en route radar service to Guam Rota Tinian Saipan and Andersen.”

The FAA seized the opportunity when Naval Air Station Guam closed in 1995 to identify the former NAS headquarters as its future home. That building which is adjacent to the control tower at Guam International Airport across the runway from the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Air Terminal is undergoing a $5 million renovation and installation of $20 million in electronics.

Cornelison said it was lucky — a coincidence of timing — that Guam is the first to install equipment under the new design for FAA facilities.

An outstanding feature of the new FAA project design which will be followed at other FAA facilities as they require replacement or renovation in the States is dual-redundant power systems. The FAA generator designed to power all the air-traffic control systems at Guam International Airport in case of blackouts has a backup system and backups to the backup. The protection goes deeper as generators are backed up by dual-redundant battery systems that can power all systems for 48 hours on their own. “This is the first power system within the FAA to be built this way ” Cornelison said. “It will become the standard. We’re just lucky to be the first FAA location to build to this standard.”

The primary reason the FAA is making the move from Andersen to Tiyan was the opportunity to move into its own building where it can consolidate staff and facilities at Tiyan. The new FAA headquarters will be four times larger than the existing one. A secondary reason is the heightened security that makes it more difficult for non-military personnel to enter the Air Force base. The FAA has occasional visits from representatives of commercial airlines who are required as are all visitors to go through identification and sponsorship procedures at a visitor center outside the front gate of the base.

Col. Paul “P.K.” White commander of the 36th Air Expeditionary Wing at Andersen said “We look forward to a continued close relationship as operations continue to expand in the future but the move is probably more advantageous for them as our force-protection posture continues to increase. We are in a global war on terrorism with considerable assets we need to protect and it’s more difficult to get on Andersen than it used to be.”

Dick Pacific Construction Co. Ltd. Guam is handling the renovation of the new FAA headquarters at Tiyan which is scheduled to be fully operational by Aug. 1 2005. Cornelison said the installation of electronics will take six or seven months followed by 30 to 60 days of testing. “We will operate from both locations for a short period to see if the radar data from Andersen and Tiyan matches up ” he said.

The FAA has 50 employees on Guam about half of whom are air-traffic controllers and half are electronic technicians. Aside from providing radar services the FAA also maintains aids-to-navigation equipment at airports from Palau to the Marshall Islands out of the Guam office.

The FAA controls air space around Guam and works closely with military air-traffic controllers in towers at Andersen and civilian contractors from a United Kingdom company called Serco in towers at Tiyan Saipan and Palau. Serco also has contracts for work at airports in Hawaii and the West Coast. The way it works is controllers at the FAA hand off control to tower controllers when aircraft come within visual view during final approach to landing — about 4.3 nautical miles or about three minutes prior to landings.

Lt. Col. Andre Mouton commander of the 36 Operations Support Squadron at Andersen said the FAA works closely and smoothly with his staff of 10 to 14 air-traffic controllers to handle some 30 000 landings per year at Andersen. Mouton said landings at Andersen have increased steadily over the past five years and 2005 promises to be significantly higher due to the continuous B-52 Bomber presence which began in February.

“It is important to have a good working relationship with the FAA because our airports are close and handoffs are critical to keeping everybody safe ” Mouton said. MBJ