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What does a Flight Dispatcher do?

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  • Written By: M.R. Anglin
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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Airplanes are used to quickly transport both people and cargo from one area of the world to another. Everyday thousands of flights take off and land at their destinations. In order to ensure the safety of the flight, the cargo, and the passengers, the involvement of experienced and dedicated individuals is necessary. One of the most important people involved in maintaining the safety of flights is the flight dispatcher. A flight dispatcher is a person who helps plan flights, coordinates plane turnaround, and assists the pilots and the flight crew in emergency situations.

In many places, a flight dispatcher can be as responsible for the safety of a flight as the captain. He normally must have knowledge of meteorology, navigation, and be familiar with the airport’s procedures. The dispatcher must also remain cool under pressure and provide assistance to the flight crew if there is a problem on board. Oftentimes, a dispatcher may have to coordinate more than one flight at a time, so he also has to be organized. In addition, he often must be able to prioritize and take on leadership of another flight in case a fellow dispatcher has to take care of an emergency.

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Before the flight is released for takeoff, the dispatcher normally takes a look at issues that may affect the flight and develops a plan that he submits to the captain. Typically, both the captain and the dispatcher must sign off on an appropriate flight plan before the plane can takeoff. The dispatcher normally must also relay information to the captain about the plane’s load so he can determine whether or not the plane is balanced and ensure it is not too heavy. In addition, the dispatcher also may help the captain determine how much fuel the plane will need for the journey.

Once in the air, the flight dispatcher generally maintains contact with the captain. At times, this means the dispatcher may coordinate several flights at once. Should a problem occur on one flight, the dispatcher typically must give sole priority to that flight. In such cases, the other flights he may be coordinating could be passed to other dispatchers. During an emergency, the dispatcher generally works with the captain to bring the flight in safely.

A dispatcher should always watch his flights so he can relay any relevant information to the captain during the flight. If there is a storm or turbulence in the air, for example, the dispatcher can tell the captain what altitude or route he can take to avoid it. The dispatcher typically has the power to divert flights in case of problems as well. For instance, should there be a reason for the plane to land early, the dispatcher may help arrange for the captain to land at another airport. He can also connect the captain to the appropriate professional if there is a problem on board.

Upon landing, the flight dispatcher normally coordinates the plane turnaround. Plane turnaround generally includes making sure the plane is properly cleaned and fueled, ensuring all cargo and passengers are safely on board, and making sure all checks have been properly made by the flight crew. This must be done quickly so flights can take off on time. If there is a problem, flight dispatchers often have the power to cancel or delay a flight. Thus, the dispatcher normally has to be aware of any and everything that can affect his flight from beginning to end.

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