Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

There’s a lot to know about Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Sure it’s the busiest airport in the world. And yes, it’s within a 2-hour flight of 80% of the U.S. population. But perhaps the most important characteristic of this “airport city” is that it’s the biggest employer in the state with 58,000 jobs!

Radar

Radar

Well you can’t run an airport without radar. So we take a moment to learn the basics of how radar works.

Transponder

Transponder

Once we’ve got a handle on radar, the next step is learning about transponders and why they work so well together.

Pyrotechnics

Pyrotechnics

It’s more than just a fancy word for fireworks. It’s also how they help keep the runways clear at the airport.

Parallel Runways

Parallel Runways

If you want to remain the busiest airport in the world, it’ll help to understand the best way to layout the runways and why this works so well.

Atlanta Metro

Special Thanks To

DeAllous Smith, Louis Miller, Kevin Fuzell, Kathryn Masters

HARTSFIELD

VO

Today Fast Forward is at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, picking a place where we'll find more great Georgia jobs.

Well there you go! Looks like we've reached our destination!

Welcome to another episode of Fast Forward, coming at you from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. With 260,000 passengers and 2,500 flights passing through every day, it's officially the busiest airport in the world.

They've got nonstop flights to more than 150 U.S. destinations, 60 international destinations, 45 countries, they're within a 2 hour flight of 80% of the US population, they're open 24/7...and what was that other thing?

KEVIN

It is the largest employer in the state of Georgia

VO

Right! Which means whether you've looking for a vacation or a vocation, Hartsfield-Jackson is the place to be!

Because when it comes to your career, you don't want to...wing it.

KEVIN

I'm sorry, but laughter for that last joke has been delayed indefinitely.

VO

Fair enough. So once again how many jobs do you have here?

LOUIS

Within the boundaries of Hartsfield-Jackson there are 58,000 employees that work out here.

VO

Pretty impressive. What kinds of jobs?

KEVIN

Companies that begin with the airline itself, and then all the support companies that have to deal with various things.

KATHRYN

We hire uh a lot of architects and engineers to do the design, architectural drafting, which is computer aided drafting as well as a lot of site work, surveyors, geotechnical.

LOUIS

It's a city unto itself. We have our own police, we have our own fire.

VO

An airport city? I like it! So has anyone ever lost the keys to an airplane?

KEVIN

There's actually some keys that lock doors for aircraft, and there have been pilots that have lost keys to aircraft and are not able to open them.

VO

Which is why it's always important to use the lost and found.

And speaking of not losing things, maybe now is a good time to discuss how Hartsfield-Jackson keeps track of all those planes.

KEVIN

Hey how about a teachable moment about radar?

VO

You read my mind, Kevin!

In order to coordinate flight arrivals and departures, air traffic controllers need to know where planes are at all times. To accomplish this, they use something called radar. Radar systems detect the location of an object by emitting high-frequency radio waves into the atmosphere. When these waves make contact with an object, they're reflected back to the source and gathered by a receiver. The system can then determine an object's location by measuring the time it takes for the radio waves to make it back.

A transponder is another important tool used alongside the radar. This device is built into every plane and works with the radar to give each aircraft a unique signature by which the plane can be identified. To achieve this, the transponder is set to transmit only a certain frequency of radio waves to the control tower. When that frequency is picked up by the radar at the airport, its unique frequency is matched to the corresponding plane code, and the plane can be individually tracked.

That's how they keep the planes organized and passengers safe. As for the runways...

LOUIS

You want to keep the animals out of the way. Birds flying, they don't mix well with airplanes

VO

Go on.

KEVIN

Here at Hartsfield-Jackson we have what we call screamers and poppers, they're just pyrotechnics. We see a bird that is close to the safety area then we will use that particular device in order to scare them away. Sometimes we will even uh get a contractor. They have trained falcons to go and scare away certain types of birds.

VO

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 58,002 jobs, including locksmith AND falconer.

So if I'm in high school and I want work in the aviation field some day, what should I focus on?

KATHRYN

Well if you're in high school the thing you really need is math.

VO

You mean you actually use that stuff?

KATHRYN

Oh I still use it all the time. Because even if you're not actually sitting down and calculating the math, it's training your brain how to work. The whole idea behind critical thinking is to evaluate things so that you can move in the right direction.

VO

And if there's one thing these guys know, its directions. Which reminds me, why are all the runways at Hartsfield parallel?

KATHRYN

That's the most efficient layout because it allows us to do simultaneous operations. We do simultaneous takeoffs on typically two runways and then simultaneous landings on three.

VO

That makes sense. Nobody likes getting stuck in traffic.

So before we have our final boarding call, tell us what makes Hartsfield-Jackson such a first-class place to work.

KATHRYN

My favorite thing about my job is that no two days are ever the same. Even when you come in and you think you know what you're going to be dealing with something always comes up that changes things, so there's a lot of stuff on the fly.

VO

On the fly...I see what you did there! And two can play at that game.

So I'll get going before Kathryn takes off with my job. But I'll make a quick round trip and see you on the next leg of Fast Forward.

This content was developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, this content does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.