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My question relates to the question What is the maximum number of planes a controller can control?, which asks about the maximum limit. One comment indicated 35 aircraft per hour for en-route segment. I, however, are not interested in the maximum number of aircraft per sector, but in the typical number of aircraft.

I am now interested in the typical amount of aircraft per enroute Air Traffic Controller at any given time during the day (how many aircraft are handled at the same time by an en-route controller).

While I am sure that there is no universal ground truth, can anyone report experience? To limit the scope, let's assume continental U.S. or Europe during the day, upper airspace.

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Depends entirely on complexity, rather than sheer numbers. In ATL I can comfortably handle somewhere around 60-70 departures per hour from a ground control position. More than double that when you factor in arrivals. That’s a VERY low complexity situation, with everyone moving one direction.

On the flip side, I’ve worked TRACON radar positions with five aircraft dodging severe weather and worked my ass off. High complexity.

ARTCC sectors are different in that they have known numbers, and will go from green to yellow to red depending on saturation. These are based on routings, in trail restrictions and so on. Again, all complexity.

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Here in Germany we have sector Numbers in maximum of about 55 to 80 flights per hour- depending on the sector. The live saturation is measured in 20 Minute blocks and a typical amount would be around 15-20 aircraft per 20 Minutes summing up to 45-60 per hour.

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  • $\begingroup$ cool, thank you. May I ask which center in Germany you're talking of? $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    May 14, 2019 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ EDUU Karlsruhe @Stefan $\endgroup$
    – pcfreakxx
    May 14, 2019 at 7:11
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I have had, at one time, 55 aircraft on my frequency, due to weather in Colorado, Kansas, and Wyoming forcing the early morning (5 AM local in Denver) eastbound rush over ONL VORTAC. Fortunately, controllers in other areas feeding my sector were looking out for me, and didn't send me any surprises. Thanks, guys.

Once I hit that peak, the push was pretty much over, and it dwindled down to 10 aircraft in about 15 minutes.

My airspace where the aircraft were concentrated is pretty big, though.

Normal traffic, during a daytime rush in that same airspace, would see 55 aircraft in half an hour, not at the same time.

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  • $\begingroup$ While a very interesting anecdote, the question is about typical traffic volumes. $\endgroup$
    – Sanchises
    May 10, 2021 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ And, I answered that, as well. $\endgroup$
    – atc_ceedee
    Aug 11, 2021 at 12:56

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