Aircraft Dispatcher and Flight Followers may seem like one in the same but there is one crucial difference – certification. They perform almost similar tasks since both jobs entail flight planning, flight plan filing, weather analysis, and flight monitoring. The major airlines and commuter airlines are domestic carriers and require certified aircraft dispatchers who are jointly responsible with the pilot for the safety of the flight. Most ad-hoc cargo carriers are supplemental carriers and have flight followers who do not legally require certification, and they are not jointly responsible with the pilot for the flight.
An aircraft dispatcher for a domestic carrier will be concerned with national or even international weather, but more specifically the weather of the region in which they are dispatching flights. Aircraft dispatchers will begin by analyzing radar summaries, weather depiction charts, satellite images, and prognostic charts until they are familiar with the weather situation in their region. The aircraft dispatcher will then get a rundown of all flights, as well as any unusual situations pertaining to flights or weather from the previous shift.
The aircraft dispatcher will then have two concerns: monitoring the progress of the flights that are already en route and preparing for the flights they must initiate. First, the aircraft dispatcher will check the weather of all the destination airports in which the en route flights are headed. They will then begin flight planning for all of the future flights, which can be up to 20 flights.
For each flight, the aircraft dispatcher will have a list of weather questions to answer before completing a flight plan. Questions that need to be addressed are: Is the departure visibility good enough for the plane to depart? If so, is the weather at the departing airport above landing minimum? There are several requirements for listing a takeoff and many factors that play into planning takeoffs and landings, and aircraft dispatchers have to plan alternate take-off and landings for each flight that they are planning.
After analyzing the weather, the aircraft dispatcher must select the appropriate routes and altitude, and then run the flight plan calculations. Thank goodness for automation, because back in the day aircraft dispatchers had to calculate flight plans by hand. Most domestic carriers have advanced computerized programs that select altitudes and “canned” routes based on winds aloft. However, like any computerized system, these computers are not always fail-proof and the aircraft dispatcher must review the routing and take into consideration their weather analysis. The aircraft dispatcher must then file the flight plan with ATC.
The aircraft dispatcher is responsible for staying up-to-date on all weather changes and en route flights. They maintain contact with every pilot in flight and they make all of the necessary adjustments if there is a change in weather, based on their alternate flight plans. On top of flight planning an average of 20 flights per day, a flight dispatcher can put in at least 10 hours of work at a time. A very long and tedious day of dispatching flights.