What Does an Aircraft Dispatcher Do?

When people think about air travel, most think that when they fly they are in the hands of their pilot. While this is true, a flight crew cannot fly without the help of a team of people on the ground. An aircraft dispatcher makes airline operations work and ensures that both pilots and their passengers are able to travel safely to their destination. Flight plans, safety guidelines, and weather patterns are all part of the work performed by a dispatcher, but many wonder what exactly a flight dispatcher does while on the job. If you are considering a field in aviation, then read on to see if a dispatcher is the right job for you.

Weather Monitoring

Almost every shift begins with a thorough check of the day’s weather and the remainder of the shift includes intermittent checks to see if the weather has changed at all. An aircraft dispatcher checks on the visibility at their departure airport as well as the conditions at the destination airport and possible alternate airports as well. An extensive knowledge of weather and forecasting is required in order to provide pilots with accurate information so that all flights make it to their destination safely and on time.

A view inside Endeavor Air's Operational Control Center Aircraft dispatcher desk

The Airline Dispatcher’s typical view

Flight Planning

While most airports have automated flight plans, an aircraft dispatcher is still required to override certain flight plan defaults if needed, and monitor all flights and suggest alternative actions, should the need arise. They need to be able to utilize complex computer systems that select the correct altitudes for flights according to flight calculations. Most flight dispatchers have as much – if not more – knowledge than pilots, allowing them to come up with flight plans that are the best choice for weather conditions, mechanical issues, or other problems that may arise. Flight plans are not always set in stone and a dispatcher has the authority required to do any of the following to a plan:

  • Divert
  • Cancel
  • Delay
  • Change

Together with the captain and all of the pertinent information needed, a dispatcher sees what needs to happen and gets it done.


The field of aviation cannot operate without good communication between the ground and the airplanes in the air. A flight dispatcher spends a good amount of time during a shift communicating back and forth between several pilots on the flights they are monitoring. Dispatchers have to tell their pilots navigation information and relay flight plan guidelines in order to ensure safe travels. Operational decisions often come straight from a dispatcher who has to let their pilots know of any safety hazards or changes that can come up without warning.

The reality of the job is that complete concentration is required throughout very long shifts, with weather is poor or airplanes have mechanical issues. Without full attention, small issues can become big problems for a flight. Working behind the scenes to keep planes in the air and on schedule, the aircraft dispatcher, also considered a form of “pilot on the ground”, is one of the unsung heroes of their aviation world. The next time you are on a flight, remember that there is more than one person directing your place to its destination and ensuring that you get there on time.

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    “Their reputation of excellence amongst the industry is second to none. Sheffield School of Aeronautics should be seen as the standard of how it can be done and how it should be done. I was hired at a major airline with no dispatch experience.” A.Z. Sidebar AZ
    “My experience at Sheffield and my exposure to other aircraft dispatchers that did not go to Sheffield has resulted in an awareness of the superior depth and quality of the training provided by the Sheffield instructors.” CD Sidebar CD
    “Being that half my new hire class dropped out over the course of training, I can confidently say that Sheffield helped to prepare me for the real world.” GT – abridged testimonial – school selection matters
    “I entered my profession, with more knowledge and information than dispatchers who have been practicing their craft for more than ten years. Not only has Sheffield provided a top notch education, but they have also instilled in me the confidence to succeed.” A.Z. Sidebar AZ – Student Testimonial
    “This school came highly recommended by multiple past students and EVEN OTHERS FROM OTHER SCHOOLS. Reputation is fantastic from multiple companies that I have worked for.” A. – September 2020
    “now that I’ve been in an indoctrination class with students from other schools, I know I made the right choice with Sheffield.”   Kindest regards,  A.R.  All schools are created equal?! yeah…sure ;)
    “I am so glad they are like this because it made me a better dispatcher and I really appreciate their high standards. I would highly recommend Sheffield to anyone who is willing to study hard and is serious about obtaining a Dispatcher Certificate.” MC MC
    “As a graduate of Sheffield School of Aeronautics I am a firm believer that I received the most thorough and well thought out aircraft dispatcher training available. I owe my position in the industry to Sheffield School of Aeronautics.” BF Sidebar BF
    “I wanted to tell you I got the job offer from Expressjet, and start next month! I think a couple others from class were hired as well. It just shows the Sheffield reputation when I see graduates from other schools complaining that they can’t get an interview – I wasn’t even back home to Minneapolis […] Dan Gustafson
    “Eric Morris is one of the most if not the most knowledgeable and experienced authorities on Aircraft Dispatching in the United States. He strives constantly to make the industry better.” DH sidebar DH
    “Sheffield School of Aeronautics is a highly recognized and respected organization throughout the airline industry. They only produce the highest quality of graduate…” P.W. Sidebar PW
    “Sheffield School of Aeronautics is known worldwide for its quality training and has been recommended to me by our national airline Swiss International Airlines. Whenever I mention the name ‘Sheffield’ it rings a bell in people’s ears.” IW IW
    “Your school has offered me an incredible advantage in the Dispatcher job market.” D.K. D. Kircher
    “As a graduate of the aircraft dispatcher program at the Sheffield School of Aeronautics…My training was intense and thorough and furnished me with the requisite skills for performing my current job as a Flight Dispatch Supervisor.” N.S. Sidebar NS
    Good afternoon Eric, I wanted to reach out to let you know that training at (airline) is in full swing and I couldn’t be happier that I chose Sheffield. My classmates, while very smart, definitely had subpar training and that has been very evident. I have waited to write a full scale review of the […] Attending Sheffield School benefits airline new hires in preparation for airline training
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