Nobody goes up, up, and away until the folks at the FAA say it's OK. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the government agency responsible for overseeing air transportation in the US. An arm of the US Department of Transportation, the FAA focuses on air transportation safety, including the enforcement of safety standards for aircraft manufacturing, operation, and maintenance. It also manages air traffic in the US through a network of towers, overseeing an average of 50,000 flights per day. It maintains radar systems, communication equipment, and air traffic security systems. The FAA's annual budget is typically around $15 billion.
Airplanes aren't the only mode of transportation overseen by the FAA. The agency also is responsible for regulation of commercial space travel, and it is developing guidelines for the emerging suborbital space tourism industry. In fact, in 2012 the FAA and NASA announced a collaboration to develop standards for the commercial space travel of astronauts to and from orbit and the International Space Station (ISS). Outside the US, the FAA works with international aviation authorities in developing common global safety practices.
The FAA is working to adopt better technology in order to more efficiently manage the increased amount of air traffic expected in the coming decades. The agency is implementing its new Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which will transition its countrywide airspace system from one based on ground radars to one that utilizes satellite technology. – less