Aircraft Dispatcher

The Job and What's Involved

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:

  • Using airline computer systems.
  • Co-ordinating the turnaround of aircraft to ensure on-time departure.
  • Ensuring compliance with all relevant security and safety regulations.
  • Planning luggage positioning, seating arrangements and overall load distribution as well as fuel requirements, and checking them against regulations.
  • Calculating an aircraft's take-off and landing weights in order to prepare final weight and balance documentation.
  • Providing flight information to other departments/teams working at the airport.
  • Ensuring that health and safety standards are being met.

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.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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).

Education and Training

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:

  • GCSE in leisure & tourism.
  • A level in travel & tourism.
  • Edexcel BTEC Level 3 Award, Certificate or Diploma in aviation operations.
  • Degrees in travel, airline or aviation management.

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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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:

  • Level 2 Awards in aircraft dispatch process, aircraft load instruction reports, or support flight operations.
  • NVQ Level 2 in providing aviation operations on the ground.
  • NVQ Level 3 in co-ordinating aviation operations on the ground.
  • Degree in airline or aviation management.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An aircraft dispatcher should:

  • Have good planning and analytical skills.
  • Have strong communication skills, both written and spoken.
  • Be able to remain calm under pressure and work to deadlines.
  • Respond quickly to issues and take the initiative.
  • Be flexible when last-minute changes are necessary.
  • Work well within a team.
  • Be reliable and conscientious.
  • Be able to prioritise and organise tasks.
  • Be able to cope with a job that can be stressful.
  • Have keyboard and computer skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

GoSkills, Concorde House,
Trinity Park, Solihull, West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520

United Kingdom Operations
Managers Association (UKOMA)

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources