In this post I’m going to describe the role of the Aircraft or Flight Dispatcher. You may also see this role described as the Airline Dispatcher or Flight Operations Officer, among other titles.
Every commercial aircraft that takes off from an airport requires a team of people who ensure its departure is safe and on time. As well as the engineers who may have serviced the aircraft, the ground operations teams who load the cargo or passenger luggage, the cabin and air crew, there are the Flight Dispatchers. The Flight Dispatchers are responsible for coordinating all the services and preparations required to ensure an aircraft leaves on schedule.
They start their day with a thorough examination of the current weather and the forecast for all their aircraft routes and destinations. They check the route for the intended flight and make any adjustments to it, having taken into account weather conditions en route or at the destination, and the operational status of airports. For this reason, Flight Dispatchers need to be able to confidently interpret weather data, NOTAMs, and other forms of information relating to aircraft in flight.
Flight Dispatchers spend a lot of time communicating with colleagues on the ground, at the airport, and the flight crews aboard the aircraft. They arrange for the cleaning of passenger aircraft and the loading of cargo aircraft. They arrange for the refuelling, routine maintenance checks, and any ad hoc servicing that may be required on the aircraft.
When you’re waiting in Departures to board your aircraft, it is the Flight Dispatcher who gives the green light for the gate to be opened for passenger boarding. It is the Flight Dispatcher who informs the air crew of the total weight of all cargo, luggage, and passengers. This is crucial information that needs to be accurate to ensure safe take off, flight, and landing.
The correct loading of an aircraft of any size, whether it’s a single engine trainer or a four engine airliner, has to take into account the weight of the fuel, the luggage & cargo, and the passengers & crew. These weight and balance calculations ensure that the aircraft can take off, fly, and land safely, taking into account no only the limitations of the aircraft but also the altitude of the airport, the prevailing weather conditions, and the length of the runway at both the point of departure and at the destination.
What skills do I need to become a Flight Dispatcher?
If this is a career that interests you then you’ll need to have good communication skills, both written and spoken. You should be confident in using IT systems and be able to learn and adapt to programs and utility software specific to the role. A basic understanding of airport operations and aircraft types is obviously a good start. A knowledge of hazardous goods, and health and safety procedures is also important for the role.
Flight Dispatchers are usually expected to work shifts in order to cover aircraft arrivals and departures around the clock. The job can also be physically demanding as you may be expected to spend some of your time outdoors in all weathers as you liaise with staff airside, around aircraft, and elsewhere on the airport apron.
Time management, resource planning, decision making, and additional language skills are all useful for this role. However, some of these skills can be developed with on the job training.
You may have acquired college certificates demonstrating some basic knowledge, for example, the City and Guilds Aviation Operations on the Ground (4877) or similar credentials that shows a basic aptitude pertaining to airport operations.
Starting salaries for inexperienced flight dispatchers in the UK are under £20,000 per year but can quickly rise depending on the size of the airport and the candidates abilities and experience. If you have an interest in aviation and want to work around aircraft then this job might be the ideal choice.