in Flying, Nflying
Dan Dyer was nice enough to organize a tour of Oakland Center for us.
Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from inside as cameras were forbidden and we got to go through a metal detector. That said, I got to sit with a controller who worked transatlantic flights (from anywhere on the west coast and between Canada, Japan, and Hawaii).
It was quite informative to see one controller working with a vast array of planes, all on the same 'rails' (airways) with planes negotiating altitudes back and forth. Some pilots would talk to controllers over the radio which would relay the request via computer to the Oakland controller for review and approval or rejection depending on his own judgement and conflict resolution computer.
What was more enlightening was the technology gap between planes that had real time GPS location reporting capability via satellite link, and could directly request altitudes from the oakland controller via keyboard, while older planes' positions were interpolated via their last reported position and ground speed. The mix of technology was almost frightening in some ways.
I then got to spend a bit of time with a controller working the upper portion of northern CA airspace spilling into LA. That one was what I was more familiar with, but nonetheless it was useful to be able to talk to a controller and see how they do their job.