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.

Communications

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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    “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
    “After receiving my certificate, I joined a class of 4 experienced dispatchers for Part 121 initial training. Without experience, my preparation at Sheffield enabled me to become active at the same time after the initial training.” PR PR
    “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
    “I am a month into my new job at a airline coming out of reorganization, and am helping the training department by referencing the excellent and up to date course book provided to all Sheffield grads.” RW RW
    “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
    “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
    “While touring my company’s dispatch department before I had my license our OCC manager pointed out that 7 of the 10 dispatchers on shift had come from Sheffield. The overall consensus was that Sheffield grads were able to hit the ground running as they were better prepared.” K.O. Sidebar K.O.
    “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
    “If you want to be the best, first you need to be trained by the best!” P. Hill P.Hill – DHL
    “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
    “This was an amazing class! Always interesting! It was like drinking from a fire hose, but I have never enjoyed a course more than this one. Thank you for a great 5 weeks & EWINS!” R.S. R.S. Testimonial – 5-weeks & EWINS
    “I am a graduate of the Sheffield’s Dispatcher Program. I have been a Captain-Part 121 Airline, Certified Flight/Grnd Instructor, and FAA Designated Check Airman and Sim Instructor (Part 121). From my experience I would rate Sheffield School as outstanding in their field.” PT PT
    “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
    “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
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