An aircraft dispatcher, along with the airline captain, is responsible for the scheduling and safety of commercial airline flights. In the United States, she is commonly required to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is a sector of the United States Department of Transportation. US dispatchers generally must ensure all FAA rules and regulations are strictly followed. Other regions have similar regulatory agencies, such as the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the United Kingdom and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Europe. Aircraft dispatchers typically work at small or large airports.
Also commonly known as a flight superintendent, the dispatcher is the main conduit between the flight and ground personnel. When passengers in an airline terminal are informed of delayed or canceled flights, the aircraft dispatcher is normally the person who has conveyed that information to the terminal customer service representative. The dispatcher is traditionally the person who signs the dispatch release, the document required for every departing flight for the airline for which she works.
Before a flight is permitted to take off, the aircraft dispatcher typically prepares a flight plan. Besides outlining the proposed route and preferred altitudes for the plane’s journey, she also may confirm weather conditions and verify the fuel requirements. Mechanics’ logs and reports are normally reviewed by the dispatcher to confirm the scheduled maintenance has been completed. The aircraft dispatcher also commonly verifies that the plane complies with the weight limitations for take-off and landing.
She typically discusses the flight plan details and decides along with the pilots and flight engineers if it is sound and safe. As a group, they discuss any possible obstacles or problems and decide if the flight should proceed as planned. If the plane and weather pass muster, the dispatcher authorizes the plane for take-off. Conversely, if noteworthy problems are discovered, she is generally required to cancel the flight. In this case, the dispatcher’s job normally requires her to assist in making alternate flight arrangements.
Once the flight is airborne, the aircraft dispatcher generally is in constant communication with the pilots and flight crews. She is commonly required to keep them informed about changes in weather patterns and advise them if altitudes need to be adjusted based on her readings and information. If these variants are significant, she may be required to present the pilots with alternate landing strategies.
An aircraft dispatcher position typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Some airlines prefer at least two years of college education. A successful candidate normally must also pass regional or national exams and may be required to complete specialized training at an approved facility. Three years experience in air traffic control in either the military or commercial sector may also help qualify an applicant to take tests for aircraft dispatching.