Aircraft Dispatchers and Ground Delays: A Personal Perspective

Lengthy ground delays may be something that those who are onboard of an aircraft get easily annoyed with, and as aircraft dispatchers – we get that. However, we also understand what is going on behind-the-scenes, and unless someone who is trying to get to the root of the problem actually talks with working dispatchers and air traffic controllers – the front-line troops in the weather war, the following conclusions could not be made from a bird’s-eye view.

In order to get the big picture on ground delays and how they relate to weather, why they happen, and why they take so long, you have to take a look into the aircraft dispatcher’s control center – where we see and assess everything.

Recent research was conducted, during which flight crews were questioned about ground delays. However, a typical flight crew may operate anywhere from 3 to 5 flights a day, while an aircraft dispatcher may operate anywhere from 30-50 flights during one single shift. Aircraft dispatchers have a more detailed awareness and understanding of the various problems that can occur during an airline’s route. The aircraft dispatcher plans the flight and has it down to a science; from preparing the main route, alternative routes, fuel load, and passing along information to the flight crew during the flight, and here at Sheffield School of Aeronautics, we can prepare you for that.

When it comes to ground delays, when weather hits – it is the job of the aircraft dispatcher to divert flights and sometimes cancel them. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects to being an aircraft dispatcher and having to delay flights – is how to determine which weather is weather that should cause flights to be cancelled or delayed. Although we may think of a thunderstorm as a thunderstorm, to an aircraft dispatcher – it is so much more than that.

For example: there was a thunderstorm that delayed an Austin, Texas flight by 7 hours. Now, while this may have made a lot of traveling passengers angry, aircraft dispatchers have passenger safety first of mind. When looking at a radar, an aircraft dispatcher determines multiple variables associated with the weather, which can have varying effects on net operational impact. Is the thunderstorm isolated, scattered, broken, or solid line? What is the movement of the storm? What is its trends? Is it a low pressure storm?  Where is the top of the storm? – can the aircraft fly over it? In this particular Texas case, the 7 hour delay was among the more uncommon type of delay, and it was due to a low pressure system that was wavering over west Texas, causing a long line of thunderstorms, so for a flight moving from south to north, it would have had to endure a lengthy time of thunderstorms, longer than typical, causing the flight to be grounded for longer than usual.

A typical ground delay lasts roughly 2-4 hours and occurs more frequently on the east coast. In order to help sharpen the lines that airline passengers have when it comes to ground delays, Sheffield School of Aeronautics recommends thinking of the flight much like that of your daily commute to work. If you know that your commute usually takes X amount of time in permitting weather, and 2X in rainy weather, and 3X in snow and icy weather, keep in mind that it is the same for an airline route.

  • Contact Us

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

  • Testimonials

    “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
    “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
    “These men represented the highest caliber of professionalism and integrity. The education I received from these gentleman has afforded me to be gainfully employed while having the opportunity to use the education received, all over this country, and more than a few others.” WG sidebar wg
    “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
    “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 ;)
    “If you want to be the best, first you need to be trained by the best!” P. Hill P.Hill – DHL
    “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
    “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
    “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
    “Going to Sheffield prepared me for the real world challenges of Aircraft Dispatching. I certainly believe that the method Sheffield used is one not only for success in a real world career, but also one that prepares students to correctly dispatch aircraft.” T.Z. Sidebar TZ
    “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
    “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
    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
    “Your school has offered me an incredible advantage in the Dispatcher job market.” D.K. D. Kircher
    “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
  • Online Catalog

    Sheffield Flight Dispatch Training Catalog

  • Connect