California Aircraft Dispatchers are Experiencing A ‘Drought’

The state of California is a beautiful and diverse stretch of land. From the beach to the mountains and city to suburbs, California has it all. Unfortunately, California suffers from seasonal wildfires year after year.

In 1991, across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland Hills experienced one of the most devastating wildfires in history, injuring over 150 people and claiming 25 lives. The Oakland Hills firestorm also destroyed 1,520 acres of apartments, condos, and beautiful hillside homes.

Due to California’s hot and dry summers, the state is prone to highly destructive wildfires like that of the firestorm of 1991.

Although wildfires target land, large firestorms have a huge effect on the amount of commercial airlines going to and from the area, and aircraft dispatchers being in the line of fire for cancelling flights. The firestorm of 1991 was in close proximity to San Francisco International Airport, and if a firestorm like the one that devastated the Bay Area were to reoccur, commercial airlines and aircraft dispatchers would be directly affected.

Unfortunately, California is not the only state that faces wildfires. Wildfires are common throughout the United States and may cause major issues for flight dispatchers. Wildfires tend to form in areas of vegetation, so when crops, grasslands, and other vegetated areas dry out in the summer heat, there is an increased risk for fires to form. Due to the height at which a fire’s smoke can reach, wildfires are uniquely dangerous for the aviation community.

The obvious threat to both aviation facilities and aircrafts, is the physical fire that spreads rapidly. However, a flight crew’s main point of concern is visibility or lack thereof. The reduction in visibility from the thick black smoke that wildfires produce, cause aircrafts to detour from their path assigned by an aircraft dispatcher.

Luckily, aircraft dispatchers of Sheffield School of Aeronautics are highly trained for situations like spontaneous wildfires.

If a flight dispatcher knows about the firestorm ahead of time, they can analyze the fire and reassign a safe route for the flight. On the other hand, if an aircraft is well on its way, a qualified aircraft dispatcher can analyze the conditions, the flight’s current position, and divert the flight to a safe location. For cases like these, aircraft dispatchers are appreciated by flight crew and flight passengers.

The affects that a wildfire has on visibility, largely depends on wind direction. It is important that an airline does not get caught in the downwind of a firestorm. Loss of visibility will overcome a flight crew very quickly, and no matter how well an aircraft dispatcher may be at predicting the day’s wind forecast, a wildfire cannot be controlled or predicted. Typically, firestorms that travel low to the ground are more predictable, but spread at an exceptional speed.

Another form of wildfire that is less predictable, is one that grows vertically. The complexity of vertical fires is high, so predictability becomes increasingly difficult as the fire is fed. Aircrafts are in danger with vertical fires, because the air becomes heated by the fire and then rises.

Since the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm, extreme weather events have become more common. From drought, wildfires, and severe cold storms, there are a number of weather-caused hazards that flight dispatchers have to be trained for and aware of. At Sheffield School of Aeronautics, you can trust that flight dispatchers will be properly trained for any weather condition! With California’s growing drought directly affecting wildfires, there is a high demand for well-trained aircraft dispatchers. Begin your career in aviation today, by contacting Sheffield School of Aeronautics.

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