Activity 9 - Design Volumes & Sectors

After the preliminary placement of flows has been agreed, the airspace volumes and sectors are defined.  Whilst airspace volumes contain the flows, the sectorisation seeks to balance the controller workload without compromising the efficiency achieved through the route placement. This may call for adjustment of the routes and holds and revisiting the initial procedure design.  This activity has several iterations with Activities 7 & 8.

Although not specific to PBN implementation, any redesign of the airspace will require the ATS routes to be protected and managed.  First, the design of the airspace volumes must take place followed by the sectorisation of the airspace volume. Significantly, both of these design activities occur after the ATS and Terminal routes have been completed.

The airspace volume is created to protect IFR flight paths – both vertically and horizontally. As such it can be of any shape or size. In developing the airspace volume it may be necessary to go back and modify the routes to ensure that they fit within the airspace volume.

Once the airspace volume is completed, then the airspace is sectorised for purposes of air traffic management.

Sectorisation is done as a function of the traffic sample and traffic assignment (see Activity 6) and may be functional or geographical (or a mixture of both). Whilst en route airspace tends to be geographical, terminal airspaces tend to use either one or the other or a mix of the two.

  • Geographical Sectorisation is where the airspace volume is divided into ‘blocks’ and a single controller is responsible for all the traffic in a single block i.e. sector; or
  • Functional “Sectorisation” is characterised by dividing the workload in the Terminal Airspace volume as a function of the aircraft’s phase of flight. The most common type of Functional Sectorisation is where one controller is responsible for arriving flights in the Terminal Airspace whilst another is responsible for departing flights in the same Terminal Airspace volume.

Once the sectors are designed, it may be necessary to go back and revisit the route placement as determined by the controller workload generated by a given ATC sector design. The design of ATS routes, terminal routes, airspace volumes and ATC sectorisation is an iterative process.

From a purely airspace design point-of-view, neither the airspace volume nor sectors need to follow national borders. It is possible, and even desirable for reasons of flight efficiency and capacity, to design cross-border airspace volumes or sectors. In such cases, the delegation of ATS will need to be considered.

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