FAA Research Center impacts the local economy
Set the standards for carrying dry ice/ COVID-19 vaccinations
Defined criteria for Lithium Ion batteries
NextGen’s primary research site
The FAA and most governmental institutions have little immediate economic impact (other than salaries) on the communities at which they are located. Not so with the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Its governmental mission is to be the nation’s leading laboratory complex for the research, development, test and evaluation of air transportation systems. Its world-class laboratories and top-notch engineering expertise put the Technical Center at the forefront of the FAA’s challenge to modernize the U.S. air transportation system. It is the primary facility for conducting the research, engineering and integration activities required to support and advance the nation’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.
Those activities attract private sector businesses to support and learn from the Tech Center’s research. According to the below article, the FAA campus contributes $900 million a year in economic activity to the seven counties in South Jersey, double the amount of just five years ago. They also are responsible for 5,240 jobs, according to an economic impact analysis released in October.
More along its technical mission, these civil servants were able:
- to quickly define the safety parameters for the use of dry ice in the carriage of COVID-19 vaccines;
- to establish standards on how to safely fly lithium batteries in air without thermal runaway; and
- to research and manage the technology for the world’s most advanced ATC system—NextGen.
- Mar 10, 2021
The Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Tech Center is an economic engine for South Jersey that handles a lot of cool projects.
Few probably are as cool as one of its latest — determining how to safely fly quantities of dry ice, at least minus 109 degrees Fahrenheit, to transport COVID-19 vaccines.
One of the first vaccines produced under the federal Operation Warp Speed needed to be kept ultra-cold in transit. Using dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide gas, made sense because it’s widely used to ship food, is readily and inexpensively available, and leaves no residue as it returns to its gaseous state (skipping a liquid state altogether, which is also cool).
But dry ice can pose risks in aircraft, including the release of carbon dioxide in a closed space. Although people exhale carbon dioxide with each breath, too much produces toxic levels in the body that can cause drowsiness, impair senses and lead to unconsciousness.
The FAA Tech Center determined the amount of dry ice that could safely be used to transport COVID vaccine in an aircraft — and in record time.
The center addressed a more widespread concern at the other end of the temperature gauge, researching how to safely fly lithium batteries that have been known to start fires on planes. That helped determine what makes such a battery go into “thermal runaway” and how to prevent it. Research is ongoing on fire suppressant gases for use in cargo holds.
The grandest project for the center is its lead role in developing the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the biggest technology upgrade ever for the nation’s air traffic control system. New aircraft location and flight path technologies will increase system capacity, reduce fuel consumption and improve safety. One part of the Tech Center’s work enabled aircraft and controllers to communicate via reliable texts and not just by voice.
The Tech Center in Egg Harbor Township and its tenants (including Atlantic City International Airport and the National Aviation Research and Technology Park) contribute $900 million a year in economic activity to the seven counties in South Jersey, double the amount of just five years ago. They also are responsible for 5,240 jobs, according to an economic impact analysis released in October.
No wonder that when local government officials and development experts focus on diversifying the region’s dominant tourism economy, their first impulse is to look at the FAA Hughes Tech Center and wish they had more work like that.
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