If you ask people about air travel, you would realize that most of them think that while flying they are in the hands of the pilot. Do you tend to think in the same way? Well, the truth lies in the fact that any flight crew cannot fly without a team of people on the ground. This team works in the flight operation center and keeps an eye on every step of your flight. When you hear a pilot’s announcement about the route change to avoid a storm cloud, probably, this decision was not made by the pilot in the aircraft cockpit but a flight dispatcher in the airline flight operation center.
Dispatchers are not only planning the flight, they monitor the whole flight and are ready to provide any necessary information for the pilots anytime. This creates an impression that they are on the flight deck with the pilots. However, they are in the airline’s flight operation center thousands of miles away of the aircraft. They are like the eyes, the ears and the brain for the pilot. As you might guess, a flight dispatcher’s day looks quite busy. What does a dispatcher do all day and what are his responsibilities?
Usually, flight dispatchers work in an airline operation control center where they track numerous amounts of real-time information in their monitors for a successful uninterrupted airline function. Their job is to make flight plans and ensure that the aircraft get where they need to be at the right time.
This high responsibility job requires complete concentration throughout the long shift which may range between 6 and 12 hours per day. Imagine, while a pilot is in charge of a single flight at a time, a flight dispatcher may be planning and monitoring multiple flights.
Every shift begins with an accurate check of the day’s weather. Visibility in the departure airport, weather conditions in the arrival airport, wind, clouds, alternative routes to avoid turbulence and even more aspects related to weather conditions are checked constantly. Imagine, even the smallest weather changes can affect the flight plans prepared in advance. Only after these morning procedures, the flight planning work begins.
Do you know that a flight dispatcher has worked more on mapping out your flight than the pilot you see when boarding? These aviation professionals in the flight operation center are heavily involved in flight planning, and their duty is to prepare a detailed pilot’s playbook which the pilot follows during the whole flight.
Flight dispatchers monitor all the important information and create a set of circumstances that guide how, where, and when your plane operates to get you safely to your destination. Dispatchers look at and plan around variables like the type of aircraft, loading or weight, airport conditions, airspace restrictions, regulatory considerations, and any number of (un)known weather conditions. Flight dispatchers put together a plan that they review with the pilots just a few hours before the passengers start boarding.
When a flight plan is prepared, provided to pilots and an aircraft takes off, a flight dispatcher’s work continues with monitoring the flight. The flight dispatcher follows your flight in real-time on the screens using radar technology, appearing several steps ahead of the plane at any given moment, watching forthcoming weather patterns and keeping an eye on any other changing conditions, adjusting the flight plan as needed.
All professions require a special “package” of skills and qualities, and that of a flight dispatcher is not an exception. Working in a busy environment under pressure with the highest requirements for safety is not for everyone. A flight dispatcher’s job is for people who are good team players, can manage a large amount of changing information and quickly make decisions which may save lives of passengers and crew or thousands of euros for airlines.
Flight dispatchers have the same specific aviation knowledge as pilots do. It is quite a common practice to take a few months’ flight dispatcher training and work as a flight dispatcher in order to save money for pilot studies. So if you’re dreaming about the job of a pilot but the study costs look far from your possibilities, considering a flight dispatcher’s job to save money for your studies may be your option.
Next time you are on a flight, remember that there is more than one person directing your aircraft to its destination and ensuring that you get there safely and on time.