Dispatchers are licensed airmen certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration and have joint responsibility with the captain for the safety and operational control of flights under his/her guidance. Flight dispatchers work indoors at the airport in the airline operations office or control center. They use computers calculators weather charts and information and loading reports.
In cooperation with the pilot, the flight dispatcher furnishes a flight plan that enables the aircraft to arrive at its destination on schedule with the maximum payload and the least operating cost. The flight dispatcher considers en-route and destination weather, winds aloft, alternate destinations, fuel required, altitudes, and traffic flow. The dispatcher’s signature, along with that of the pilot, releases the aircraft for flight. The dispatcher maintains a constant watch on all flights dispatched, and is responsible in joint agreement with the airline captain for flight planning, route and altitude selection, fuel load requirements, aircraft legality and complying with FAA regulations. The dispatcher is the go-between for the pilot and ground service personnel, and keeps all personnel concerned with the flight informed about its status.
Aircraft Dispatchers authorize, regulate, and control commercial airline flights according to government and company regulations to expedite and ensure safety of flight by performing the following tasks:
- responsible for economics, passenger service and operational control of day to day flight operations.
- analyze and evaluate meteorological information to determine potential hazards to safety of flight and to select the most desirable and economic route of flight.
- compute the amount of fuel required for the safe completion of flight according to type of aircraft, distance of flight, maintenance limitations, weather conditions and minimum fuel requirements prescribed by federal aviation regulations.
- prepare flight plans containing information such as maximum allowable takeoff and landing weights, weather reports, field conditions, NOTAMS and many other informational components required for the safe completion of flight.
- prepare and signs the dispatch release which is the legal document providing authorization for a flight to depart.
- delay or cancel flights if unsafe conditions threaten the safety of his/her aircraft or passengers.
- monitor weather conditions, aircraft position reports, and aeronautical navigation charts to evaluate the progress of flight.
- update the pilot in command of significant changes to weather or flight plan and recommends flight plan alternates, such as changing course, altitude and, if required, enroute landings in the interest of safety and economy.
- originate and disseminate flight information to others in his/her company including stations and reservations. This is the source of information provided to the traveling public.
Flight dispatchers frequently work under pressure in a fast-paced environment especially when flying weather is bad. They must make many rapid decisions concerning safety, flight regulations, and the economy of operations. These employees are surrounded by people, teletype machines, telephones, and intercom systems in a noisy, busy atmosphere. Those who work for a small airline, carry on the duties of a meteorologist and schedule coordinator.
Job applicants must have good vision, hearing, enunciation and an FAA Dispatch Certificate. They must thoroughly know the Federal Aviation Regulations on airline operations and be competent in airline communications and meteorology. Experience with monitoring, analyzind and/or calculating various flight factors such as weather reports and NOTAMs, runway performance, weight and balance issues, ATC preferred routes distance and fuel needs to create and/or update flight plans.
The dispatcher must be familiar with navigation facilities over airline routes and at airports as well as with the takeoff, cruising, and landing characteristics of all aircraft operated by the airline. The flight dispatcher also must ride periodically in the cockpit with the flight crew to observe flight routes, conditions, and airports.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required. 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.
Entry level flight dispatchers earn between $42,000 – $60,000 with $110,000+ top end annual salary. Benefits of being employed with the airlines are great and include: Cockpit Jumpseat Authority (ride jumpseat on your airline, and most other airlines globally), Free or reduced rate travel privileges, Health Insurance, Life Insurance, 50-60% discounts at hotels, 401K retirement plans, discounts at rental car agencies , 50-80% discount on cruise lines, and other airline industry travel discounts. Salaries and benefits can vary.