Dynamic Resectorization in Air Traffic Control

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Authors: Pamela S. Della Rocco
Randy Sollenberger, PhD.
Earl S. Stein

Stein, E. S., Della Rocco, P. S., & Sollenberger, R. L. (2006). Dynamic resectorization in air traffic control: A human factors perspective (DOT/FAA/TC-TN06/19). Atlantic City International Airport, NJ: Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The National Airspace System is a highly structured environment. Structure provides benefits including predictability for the decision maker, the air traffic controller. When something is unusual, controllers can identify the event as out of the ordinary given their inherent and trained capacity for pattern recognition. The expertise in pattern recognition does not develop quickly. In the current system, it takes En route controllers an average of about three years to certify as Certified Professional Controllers (CPCs, formerly Full Performance Level). In general, CPCs must learn and check out on at least six different sectors to certify. There are situations, however, when the usual structure is reduced and the typical patterns do not work. This can happen with weather events and systems outages as examples. Dynamic resectorization offers a tool in these situations to increase the options and promote flexibility. In our current system, traffic managers can resectorize in a very systematic, structured way to balance the load and increase the level of structure for controllers. The system of the future may include several types of resectorization supported by automation tools. Limited dynamic resectorization is similar to what is done now but may see more widespread use. Unlimited dynamic resectorization represents a leap into the future with underlying technology that does not exist today. Both approaches raise human factors questions, which should be approached systematically in a proactive manner. The more flexible the system becomes the more dynamic the options will be. Operators will need solid anchors if they are going to be able to efficiently and expeditiously maintain safe separation between aircraft.