Together with the pilot, the flight dispatcher is responsible for ensuring the safety of an aircraft’s flight. This includes preparing a flight plan. A flight plan is a detailed schedule of destinations, layovers, distance, expected fuel consumption, winds aloft, weather, altitude, compass bearing, and alternate destinations in case of problems. As each plane departs the airport, the flight dispatcher keeps track of their current location and estimated time of arrival. When delays or early arrivals are expected, the flight dispatcher notifies the affected ground support personnel so that they can adjust their schedules. In order to perform these duties, a flight dispatcher must know the airplane’s capability, cruising speed, fuel consumption rate, and many other factors.
A flight dispatcher is required to ride with the flight crew on occasion in order to stay current on flight procedures, airports, and routes. When not working alongside the crew in the cockpit, a flight dispatcher is normally in the airline’s control center relying on radar screens and other equipment to keep track of each aircraft. Constructing a flight plan requires the use of aeronautical maps, a flight computer, aircraft manuals, weather reports, and more. Having a flight dispatcher job is similar to being a ground-based navigator.
Flight dispatchers are an extension of the cockpit flight crew, which is an exciting job. As part of that job, the dispatcher is required to spend several hours each year in the cockpit riding along on flights. Many flight dispatchers consider that a reward rather than a requirement. It’s not unusual for a flight dispatcher to be extended the courtesy of accompanying the crew on aircraft not with his or her own airlines.
A flight dispatcher shares responsibility for the safety of an aircraft, its crew and passengers. Many factors come into play unexpectedly that the flight dispatcher cannot control, such as weather, but he or she must anticipate these problems and produce solutions quickly, accurately, and with the highest regard for safety. Flight dispatchers must have a thorough understanding of navigation, meteorology, human factors, aircraft characteristics, and more. Because planes fly at all hours, flight dispatchers are needed around the clock.
Those interested in becoming a flight dispatcher should have good math skills, map skills, some mechanical ability, communication skills, the ability to work in stressful situations, and have an attention to detail.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Testing requirements to gain the necessary certification include being at least 21 years old. Fluency in English is required. Knowledge of FAA or Transport Canada regulations pertaining to airline operations is required.
Due to the technical nature of a flight dispatcher’s job, and in the interest of safety, the FAA and Transport Canada have strict rules and regulations regarding the certification and training of flight dispatchers. The airline will work with the employee to follow all applicable laws.
Salary and Benefits
Benefits may include cockpit jump seat rides, paid vacation and holidays, insurance, retirement plan, discounted or free airfares.