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Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Flight Operations Dispatcher

When you arrive at the airport and make your way to your aircraft, there’s plenty for you to see as you hand off your luggage and prepare to board. You can see the airplane out on the apron waiting for you accompanied by a team of ground operations and support staff. You might also meet your broker and you’ll see a well-prepared flight crew as you get settled into the cabin. To make these initial impressions and experiences as seamless as possible there is a team of professionals who you never get the chance to see that bring it all together. Flight operations dispatchers are an integral part of our team. The success and efficiency of each flight hinges on their professional behind-the-scenes capabilities. Flight planning and logistics coordination is handled by our dispatchers, and it is no small feat. We want to bring some much deserved recognition to those who our success on the front lines of the operation depends on. Welcome to the world of flight operations dispatchers!

Flight Planning the Optimal Route

Your pilots are technically familiar with many aspects of domestic and international flight planning, but they cannot do it alone. The legal compliance and safety of each flight requires dedicated personnel who are well-versed in the specifics. Dispatchers assume responsibility on behalf of the operator to collect all the pertinent information and legal documentation required for each flight, but the legality rests on the shoulders of the pilot in command of each flight. Today’s challenges of getting an aircraft from A to B require the coordination of support staff, applying for overflight permits, and very detailed flight planning. To build the most optimal route for each flight; one that avoids hazardous weather, makes best use of aircraft performance, and is most time efficient, dispatchers use a software program approved by the FAA. Dispatchers begin coordinating each flight with an arrangement of handling solutions at the departure and destination, and then begin the application process for overflight permits (if required) for the route to be flown. Dispatchers also keep tabs on weather patterns that impact each flight and begin planning a route that is safest and most efficient. When a dispatcher needs to relay information or route changes to the crew of a flight that is currently underway, they have a direct line of electronic communication via high speed data link.

Around the Clock Operation

Dispatchers who oversee operations such as ours, where aircraft fly simultaneously around the world, face the unique challenge of time zone shifts. It is not uncommon, for example, for a flight crew on the other side of the globe at noon to require assistance from the dispatch office where it is currently midnight. Dispatchers rotate schedules to accommodate the variability and complexity of each operation regarding time zone differences. While dispatchers cannot predict unforeseen circumstances that might require their intervention, they often relay contingency plans to their flight crews for the most likely scenarios such as air traffic control reroutes, severe weather or departure delays. Sometimes intervention is necessary, and our dispatchers must be adaptable and ready to provide assistance when the need arises.

One Big Game of Chess

Ensuring operational legality and efficiency is a team effort, but our dispatch and flight coordination office bear much of this responsibility. On-demand charter (14 CFR Part 135) is an inherently complex type of operation. It requires frequent aircraft repositions, compliance with flight crew rest rules, and adherence to variable international regulations. Dispatch professionals and flight coordinators must have an eye for detail and a robust understanding of aviation industry knowledge to do their jobs well. It is a difficult series of tasks to find logical, safe, and cost-effective solutions to the daily needs of our operation, but our dispatchers meet each of them head-on. Our seamless and well-prepared presentation to clients and brokers on the flight line is owed to the work that comes out of our flight operations dispatch office and we simply cannot do it without them.


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