A flight dispatcher is like a ground captain, except
where the captain is operating a single aircraft,
an airline dispatcher can be responsible for up to
50 aircraft during a single shift, including charting routes and alternates, calculating fuel loads
and aircraft weight, monitoring flights (known as
“flight watch”) and taking decisions whether to divert or cancel
flights if an aircraft cannot continue to operate safely. A dispatcher is also plugged into air traffic control to ensure the most
efficient routings and minimize costly air traffic control delays.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, flight dispatch
jobs are expected to grow at an annual rate of 12 per cent over
the next five years as older dispatchers retire, aircraft systems
become more complex and the skies become more crowded. It is
not just large airlines that rely on dispatchers. Smaller carriers
are also hiring dispatchers for the operations team. As the rate of
retirement for air traffic controllers increases, flight operations
centres are going to be competing with NAV CANADA and one
another for these skills.
An airline dispatcher makes joint decisions with the flight
captain to ensure a safe and efficient flight, including giving the
crew a situational update prior to departure, including aircraft
activity and weather information and feeding data to the flight
deck en route.
Flight dispatchers must be Transport Canada licensed, scoring
at least 70 per cent on every exam. The dispatcher is also expected
to demonstrate the same level of knowledge and proficiency in
decision-making as the flight crew. A commercial pilot licence,
flight services specialist experience, air traffic control experience
or related experience within a flight operations centre can improve
career prospects, especially with the larger air carriers.
Making contact with Canada’s leading aviation
associations is an excellent way to gain knowledge
about a potential career in aviation.