Flight Dispatcher

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Flight Dispatcher


There is a large number of people involved in getting a plane off the ground. Pilots and flight attendants are the ones we see as passengers, but mechanics, air traffic controllers and flight dispatchers are some of the other people who we never see, but owe our safety to each and every time we fly.

Flight dispatchers work along side the pilots to ensure planes meet their destinations on schedule. They monitor things like wind, weather, fuel needs, altitudes to be reached, and they look ahead to learn about traffic flow, and plan alternate landing spots along the way. They make sure that everything is in place prior to a flight's departure--in fact, a plane is only allowed to take off if the flight dispatcher has signed its release. Once the plane is in the air, the dispatcher informs anyone concerned with the flight--traffic controllers, ground service personnel, and other airport staff who might need to know. They also look after any paperwork that needs completing.

Not only does the flight dispatcher have to be familiar with things like weather patterns, he or she also has to be comfortable discussing flight technicalities: things like routes, airport procedures at other airports, and the takeoff, cruising, and landing characteristics of all the aircraft operated by their airline or airport. They may ride in the cockpit occasionally, to familiarize themselves with these things.

With smaller airlines, flight dispatchers may be involved in a number of areas, working on everything from coordinating finances to seeing planes take off safely. With larger airlines, however, dispatchers usually focus only on one or two areas of the job.

Flight dispatchers are important members of the air travel team. Without them, it's more than likely most planes would never make it off the ground.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as flight dispatcher? Flight dispatchers need to be quick thinking, able to cope with stressful situations, and be dedicated, loyal, and safety conscious. They are able to make spontaneous, creative decisions. They must be also be responsible, highly organized and able to concentrate for long periods of time. Flight dispatchers must have a visual mind. They are good communicators, who can convey information concisely. They should enjoy working within a regulated field, and should like taking on leadership roles. Flight dispatchers need good vision and hearing, and an interest in meteorology.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan flights, often alongside the pilot
  • Look into flight costs
  • Look into weather conditions, alternate landing places, and fuel needs
  • Chart a course based on gathered data
  • Contact other flight personnel about plan
  • Sign for flight release
  • Occasionally accompany pilots on flights to learn about flight and landing procedures and route possibilities
  • Look after any paperwork that needs completing
  • The typical day for a flight dispatcher involves a lot of research and careful planning, both alone and alongside other dispatchers, pilots, flight crew and air traffic controllers. Dispatchers spend most of each day planning ahead, meeting with others, and writing reports on planned routes and scheduled arrivals of flights. They may travel occasionally, when reviewing flight procedures.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Flight dispatchers work at airports, in the airline operations office. They are employed by individual airlines, or in small communities, they may represent all the planes that come to the area.
  • Flight dispatchers work together, in teams. As airports are in service 24 hours a day, so may be the flight dispatchers, who may be assigned to work shifts on weekends, in the middle of the night, and on holidays. Their working atmosphere is busy, noisy, and high-pressured, especially when the weather is bad.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Flight dispatchers can advance to supervisory positions, or move on to work in other areas of flight control, like air traffic control. They can train to become pilots, or enter a profession that would use their patience and skill for level-headed decision making.

  Educational Paths  
Though a college degree with a major in air transportation or meteorology is useful preparation for work as a flight dispatcher, experience is equally important. Job applicants must have good vision, hearing, enunciation, and an FAA dispatcher's license. They must know thoroughly the Federal Aviation Regulations on airline operations and be competent in airline communications and meteorology.

Flight dispatchers should pursue a degree or diploma in meteorology or air transport. They will also need to attend a flight school or college program in flight dispatching and operations.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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