The role of a flight dispatcher is to make sure that the airplane and its passengers arrive safely from the city of departure to the destination city. Together with the pilot, the flight dispatcher regulates a flight schedule that should result in maximum payload and minimum cost of operation. The flight dispatcher works behind the scenes at an airport, scheduling routes, calculating costs and considering the weather and other factors that might throw a flight off schedule.
Flight dispatcher jobs involve releasing an aircraft for takeoff, which only occurs once the pilot and flight dispatcher sign the necessary paperwork. Once he or she releases the plane, it is the duty of a flight dispatcher to watch flights that are in the air. The wind, altitude, route and fuel levels must be watched constantly by the dispatcher during a plane’s course. A flight dispatch job, therefore, requires the dispatcher to act as a middle man or woman between the pilot and the aircraft personnel on the ground. These people are continually updated on the status of the flight by the dispatcher.
Although flight dispatcher jobs are primarily carried out in an office at an airport, the dispatcher occasionally rides in the cockpit of the airplane with the pilot if routes or conditions must be closely maintained, and the pilot needs an extra pair of eyes. Additionally, federal aviation regulations require that flight dispatchers must ride in the cockpit for at least five hours per year to stay familiar with the flight equipment and procedures. For the most part, though, flight dispatch jobs are performed from a highly technical office or control center with radar and computer equipment that give live, up-to-the-minute reports on the statuses of flights. A flight dispatch job requires the use of tools such as a calculator and weather chart, along with a computer, of course.
Flight dispatcher jobs vary regarding the scope of work depending on the size of the airline for whom the dispatchers work. With larger airlines, there are usually more employees to take on specific tasks, so the dispatcher’s work is straightforward and involves making sure the flight schedule is laid out and followed. Flight dispatcher jobs at smaller airlines will demand the dispatcher to take on many roles, often including that of a meteorologist.
Flight dispatcher jobs do not require a college degree, although many in the field hold one in air transportation or a related field. Successful flight dispatchers must be able to maintain their calm in highly stressful situations. They must be detail-oriented, conscientious and able to think quickly on their feet. A dispatcher’s work week is usually 40 hours long, although he or she must always be on call for emergency situations.