The Difference Between an Aircraft Dispatcher and an Air Traffic Controller

People often think there is no difference between an aircraft dispatcher and an air traffic controller, but the two jobs are not the same. Although they both deal with air traffic, the aircraft dispatcher and air traffic controller differences are quite substantial. If you are interested in becoming an aircraft dispatcher, it is important that you are aware of the aircraft dispatcher and air traffic controller differences and what each role entails.infographic of the difference between an aircraft dispatcher and an air traffic controller

Aircraft Dispatcher Role

An aircraft dispatcher is employed by an airline and is heavily involved in the pre-planning of flights to ensure the safety of the trip. They review the plane’s crew, monitor the plane in-flight, and focus on maximizing efficiency.

An aircraft dispatcher’s responsibility is to conduct thorough research in order to create the flight plan for the pilot. The basics of the flight plan will include the flight’s planned route, altitudes, airports, maximum weight, and other important variables. An aircraft dispatcher will also do a great deal of research on the weather conditions. Full flight plans will typically include weather reports, weather conditions, alternative airports in case of inclement weather, and other pertinent meteorological factors.

In addition to these responsibilities, aircraft dispatchers must also consider the fuel. They must calculate not only how much fuel is needed to reach to the flight’s destination, but how much fuel the plane needs to get to its next stop while still following FAA guidelines.

Because aircraft dispatchers have an integral role in flight preparation, they must attend dispatcher schools or complete a dispatcher program as well as receive their FAA dispatch license. If you are interested in becoming an aircraft dispatcher, Sheffield School of Aeronautics has a comprehensive program to train students and help them achieve these dreams.


Air Traffic Controller Role

Air traffic controllers have a different, but equally important job. They are typically employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)1 and work to keep aircraft safe through radio and radar contact. You may have seen them in airport towers, radar rooms, and on the ground.

Air traffic controllers will direct the movement of planes. They want to ensure that the planes are always safe distances apart. They also provide weather information to pilots, but not in the same preliminary manner as aircraft dispatchers. Instead, they typically provide current weather conditions while the plane is en route. Air traffic controllers also handle unexpected events and emergencies. For this reason, you may have heard them mentioned in news reports more often than aircraft dispatchers.

Now that you know the difference between an aircraft dispatcher and an air traffic controller, you can better decide what role may be best for you. Though there are several differences between an aircraft dispatcher and air traffic controller, both play integral role in a successful flight. At Sheffield School of Aeronautics, we train individuals and help them earn their aircraft dispatcher certificate. Established in 1948, we are the world’s oldest aircraft dispatcher school. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today and take the first step to your new career as an aircraft dispatcher!


  1. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – Aviation Careers – Air Traffic Control Specialists


Related Readings:

Aircraft Dispatcher Course – 5 Week Course

Aircraft Dispatcher Salary

The Eligibility Requirements for an FAA Flight Dispatcher Course

Getting Your Aircraft Dispatcher Certification Online


Infographic added on August 10, 2020.

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    “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
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    “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
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