Unsung Heroes of the Sky – Aircraft dispatching and who to thank for a safe flight!
Aircraft dispatchers are the on-the-ground copilots you’ve never heard of or seen. Before a plane is fueled, loaded and boarded, aircraft dispatchers have already planned the entire flight down to the letter: weather, altitude, fuel and emergency operations in case of disaster. It starts in the headquarters of major airlines, miles away from any terminal. The old adage: it’s much safer to fly than to drive; well that’s in large part thanks to aircraft dispatchers.
It’s easy to get air traffic controllers and aircraft dispatchers mixed up. The misconception exists because controller and dispatcher might sound like synonyms, but they couldn’t be more different. The common idea of air traffic control is one that most likely came to your mind when you read the title of this article. Pushing Tin, Breaking Bad or even the classic film Airplane! instill the idea of smart people hunched over radar screens in cubicles talking to the drivers of the sky. Those are controllers, not dispatchers.
The dispatcher starts a typical work day surrounded by computer screens and, most likely, a large cup of coffee. Much like a scene in the Mission Control of any typical space voyage, these dispatchers, men and women of a high quality, spend their day mapping out flight paths with every possible scenario in mind. There’s a lot that goes in to planning a flight. Weather conditions determine altitude, departure times and fuel requirements. Operations at the airport of departure play a big role in taxi times and delays. There’s planning for emergencies and holding patterns; communicating with the airline, maintenance teams and the crew.
When everything is said and done, the work is sent out. Next time you’re at the terminal, zoning out or surfing the web, take a second to watch the pilot as he enters the gate. Ever see the big stack of papers a pilot picks up at the ticket stand? That’s all the work the dispatcher put in for your flight – all of which is learned at an FAA accredited aircraft dispatching school. A massive ‘Google map cheat sheet’ detailing the course of your flight. Hours of work rolled into experience and skill, to ensure the safety and comfort of your flight.
When in the air, consistent communication is maintained between the flight crew and the air traffic controller while the flight is still monitored by the aircraft dispatcher. Updates, course diversions and weather monitoring.
The type of person that takes on this sort of work is meticulous and most importantly, passionate. They leave nothing to chance, no scenario unplanned for, no proverbial stone unturned. Aircraft dispatching is not a job, it’s a calling. There are few institutions more adept at training and guiding anyone in the art of dispatch than Sheffield School of Aeronautics.
It’s easy to take for granted the magic and intricacies of our daily lives. In that vein, it’s easy to take for granted the hard work and dedication of aircraft dispatchers. They are an integral part of the flight crew, an unseen fourth seat in the cockpit, and the unsung heroes of the sky.