Aircraft dispatchers, also known as flight operations officers or load controllers, are part of the team that works in an airline/ground handling services operations control centre at an airport. They are responsible for co-ordinating activities to ensure that aircraft depart for flights on time.
Aircraft dispatchers liaise with many different teams within an airport, including airlines, airport authorities and other internal departments working in ground services. They have to make sure that any work undertaken to prepare a flight is done to the correct standards and within set timeframe's and have the final say as to whether an aircraft can depart. They must also deal with any unexpected problems and make sure that they are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The job role can vary slightly between employers; however aircraft dispatchers are usually responsible for at least some of the following tasks:
The aircraft dispatcher will work with specially designed software that calculates the payload (weight of cargo, luggage, passengers and fuel) for the flight and advises where it should be positioned within the aircraft. They also calculate the amount of fuel needed for the flight. The aircraft dispatcher uses this information to produce a load sheet which is given to the pilot who enters this data into the flight deck computer before take-off. This is a very important task as this data ensures that the aircraft will fly safely throughout its journey.
The staff in an operations control centre work shifts, usually of around eight hours a day, five days a week, covering all of the times that an airport is open. This can include early mornings, evenings, weekends and bank holidays and possibly working at night if the airport is open 24 hours a day.
Much of the aircraft dispatcher's work takes place at their desk in the operations office of the control centre. They spend a lot of their time working on computers. They also spend some of their time airside (where the aircraft are parked up outside the terminal) and this can mean being outside in all weather conditions.
Aircraft dispatchers may be given a uniform to wear, and must clearly show their identity pass at all times. When they are working airside they must wear a high- visibility vest, ear defenders and safety shoes.
Starting salaries for aircraft dispatchers are around £14,000. This can increase to around £20,000 with experience and with additional responsibilities.
Managerial positions, such as flight operations manager, can attract salaries of between £25,000 and £50,000.
Additional income is available through overtime and shift allowances. Some employers give their staff concessions at the airport where they work.
Entry requirements for getting into the role of aircraft dispatcher can vary between employers. Normally some experience of working in aviation can be very useful as the role does require an understanding of the basic procedures for aircraft landing and take-off at an airport.
Job vacancies are advertised on airline or ground handling services company websites and on aviation job search websites. They may also be advertised on airport websites and on the website for the United Kingdom Operations Managers Association (UKOMA).
Academic requirements for entry into the role can vary; however applicants usually need a good basic education, with at least some GCSE's at grades (A*-C), especially in English and maths. Other relevant qualifications that can be useful include:
The Diploma in travel and tourism (available from September 2010) may also be relevant for this area of work.
Anyone wanting to work at an airport needs to live close to the airport and have access to reliable transport. This is in case they are called in at short notice, but also because of working shifts, when they may be required to travel at any time of the day or night.
Once they have been recruited, aircraft dispatchers will receive training specific to their job. Some of this will be delivered through specially designed courses and other training will be provided on the job. Training will cover areas including aviation regulations, flight planning and monitoring and how to use custom-made airline systems.
Staff can work towards industry qualifications including:
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An aircraft dispatcher should:
Aircraft dispatchers may wish to progress and become a duty manager or supervisor. Some may progress from there to become a flight operations manager.
They may also move into airport or air services work, including working for other areas of ground handling services. Others can move into more commercial aspects of airlines or into project and planning work. Some aircraft dispatchers move on to become senior managers and directors.
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United Kingdom Operations
Managers Association (UKOMA)
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.