Interview: David P. Francisco, Chief Dispatcher





Interview: David P. Francisco, Chief Dispatcher

Date: October 26, 2009

Time : 1509L

Location: Northwest Airlines Training Center  

During the interview, David Francisco stated the following:  

He stated that his name is David P. Francisco. His date of hire at Northwest was July 27, 1990. He was accompanied to the interview by Murray Auger, Director of Dispatch Service, Northwest Airlines. He graduated Embry Riddle at age 22, and joined Business Express Airlines as a dispatcher. On October 21, 2009 he was the Chief Dispatcher, and at about 0030Z, he got a call from the Minneapolis, St. Paul (MSP) Air Traffic Control (ATC) Sector Supervisor requesting that he send a message to Northwest flight 188 for a NORDO (no radio contact), and the frequency to send was 124.87 MHz.  

He sent the text message via ACARS to the aircraft and sent a copy to the dispatcher for the flight 188. He stated that Northwest gave the chief dispatcher’s desk phone number to all of the Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) centers so that ATC messages to specific dispatcher’s could get relayed to the dispatcher for the particular aircraft. He stated that this was based upon a “script”, and the process worked well. He said there is no way for the chief dispatcher to know if the aircraft had received the message unless the dispatcher of record advises him that the aircraft responded.  

However, if the ACARS message “rejects” from the aircraft, the chief dispatcher would get that rejection. By the lack of an ACARS rejection, the chief dispatcher knew the cockpit had received the message. He stated that he had no rejects on any of the 3 messages he sent. Regarding SELCAL, he stated that he attempted to SELCAL the airplane after the second or third call from MSP center. He said that he sent a third ACARS message that was more urgent, and got up to speak with the dispatcher. He stated that he made 8 SELCAL attempts across the two company frequencies (131.9 and 130.7) that the crew may be monitoring. He stated that had he sent the message as a FUV (free uplink voice) versus FUT (free uplink text), it may have initiated a SELCAL alert to the aircraft, but he was not sure about that.  

He stated he was not sure if the chime was active on Northwest Airlines airplanes. He stated that he saw, during the course of the event, that 3 other dispatchers had sent messages to the aircraft, and he said that this was not unusual. He stated that the day was very quiet, and that this event did not interfere or burden him. He stated he was not aware of what the ARTCC procedures were regarding NORDO flights. He also said he did not know that the aircraft had flown through Denver center as a NORDO. He realized that there was a problem when the aircraft flew over the holding patterns at Sketr intersection at FL370. He said other airplanes were holding at altitudes “in the mid to upper 30’s”.

He stated that there were only about 4-5 airplanes in holding patterns over Sketr, but it was busier on the Eau Claire arrival side. He stated that the dispatchers file an incident/irregularity report for incidents such as this, and would provide NTSB investigators with a copy. He said that the dispatcher for the particular flight is responsible for filing this report. He stated there are hard copy records of the ACARS message, and that the last message received from the aircraft was at 01:25Z. He stated that he had the opportunity to SELCAL (selective calling) the airplane using the VHF radio. He attempted to SELCAL over the company frequencies on the possibility that the crew would monitor the SELCAL frequency.


He said that when a dispatcher needed to contact an aircraft in flight, they would “reverse the flow” and would contact the ATC center and would have them contact the airplane and advise them to call the company on the company frequency. Regarding the FUT/FUV inputs for ACARS texting, he stated he has not tried it because of the possibility of “locking up” the computer.  

He stated that they received about 4-5 notifications of a NORDO flight per day, and that weekends seem to be the worse. He stated that there were no problems with the dispatch office move from MSP to ATL after the merger. He said the only difference is that in MSP he had a Northwest Dispatch Director sitting next to him, and in ATL there was the DEN (Domestic Events Network) coordinator sitting at that position. He said that there was a little “pushback” when the DEN coordinator in the ATL office contacted the DEN to speak about a Northwest flight (since there was no NW director on duty in ATL).  

This was resolved and they advised that the flight was talking with ATC. He said that in total, there were about 7 ACARS messages sent and 8 attempts on SELCAL for a total of approximately 15 individual attempts to contact the flight. He stated that the DEN had advised them they were at combat ready status to launch the fighters, and that they were within minutes of launching an intercept.

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