In cooperation with the pilot, the flight dispatcher furnishes a flight plan that enables the aircraft to arrive at its destination on schedule with the maximum payload (that is, passengers, mail, cargo) and the least operating cost. The flight dispatcher considers enroute and destination weather, winds aloft, alternate destinations, fuel required, altitudes, and traffic flow. He or she maintains a constant watch on all flights dispatched and is the liaison between the pilot and ground service personnel.
The flight dispatcher must be familiar with all airline routes and airport facilities as well as with the takeoff, cruising, and landing characteristics of all types of aircraft operated by the airline. Flight dispatchers also take flights in the cockpit with the flight crew to observe flight routes, conditions, and airports. Flight dispatchers work indoors at the airport in the airline operations office. They use computers, calculators, weather charts and information, and loading re-ports. A 40-hour week with shift work is normal.
Flight dispatchers frequently work under pressure, especially when flying weather is bad. They must make many rapid decisions concerning safety, flight regulations, and the economy of operations. These employees are surrounded by people, teletype machines, telephones, and intercom systems in a noisy, busy atmosphere. Those who work for a small airline, carry on the duties of a meteorologist and schedule coordinator. Salaries start around $35,000 per year and increase, over a ten-year employment period, to about $59,000.
Flight dispatchers can move into this position from jobs as dispatch clerks, junior flight dispatchers, radio operators, meteorologists, or station managers. Large airlines employ senior dispatchers who specialize in coordinating the finances of every flight. Promotion is from within. Experience as an airline dispatcher may be used in qualifying for a job as an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration or as an airport director. Though a college degree with a major in air transportation or meteorology is useful preparation for work as a flight dispatcher, experience is equally important. Job applicants must have good vision, hearing, enunciation, and an FAA dispatcher's license. They must know thoroughly the Federal Aviation Regulations on airline operations and be competent in airline communications and meteorology.
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