How to Become an Aircraft Dispatcher

Emergency services dispatcher
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Aircraft dispatchers work for airlines and other scheduled carriers to ensure the safety of flight. They share the overall responsibility for the safety of each flight with the captain and work to maintain safe, efficient operations for their company. It takes only about five to six weeks of training to obtain your FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate.

Dispatcher Responsibilities

Aircraft dispatchers work behind the scenes to ensure the safety of flight.

They have many responsibilities and must work with many different departments and personnel in an airline to manage a flight’s safe, on-time departure and arrival. While an airline pilot is in charge of one flight at a time, a dispatcher oversees many aircraft at once, making the aircraft dispatcher’s job a very busy one.

Some of the responsibilities of an aircraft dispatcher include:

  • Producing flight plans while considering every aspect of the flight, such as fuel, winds, weather, maintenance issues, weight and balance, airport delays and many other factors
  • Calculating aircraft performance, limitations, weight and balance, airspeed, altitudes, distances and routes for each flight
  • Managing weather delays and routing or re-routing aircraft as necessary to maintain a safe, efficient flight
  • Ensuring each aircraft is properly equipped for the particular flight, or that the flight planning is properly adjusted for maintenance issues
  • Monitoring flight progress and alerting the captain of changes in weather, airport delays, runway closures, etc.
  • Cancelling or delaying flights when necessary
  • Determining the best course of action during an emergency situation, notifying the pilot of available options such as closest airports or runways to divert to, and then managing the diverted aircraft

    Prerequisites

    To apply for an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certification, you must be at least 23 years old and be able to read, speak, write and understand English.

    Dispatcher candidates must accrue 200 hours of training on specific topics. Then, students must pass a written knowledge test, a practical flight planning test, and an oral exam.

    You can take the FAA Aircraft Dispatcher knowledge test at the age of 21.

    Training

    The FAA has mandated that all FAA-approved dispatcher courses provide a minimum of 200 hours of training to aircraft dispatcher students.

    There are numerous aircraft dispatcher certification programs that are FAA-approved. Most of these offer either a five-week or six-week course that includes the 200 required hours. Some people, such as air traffic controllers and airline pilots, can get the dispatcher certificate with fewer hours of training since much of the training topics overlap.

    Training for an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate will include the following topics, as outlined in 14 CFR 65.55(a):

    • FARs related to airline pilot operations
    • Meteorology
    • Weather and NOTAM collection, interpretation and usage
    • Interpreting weather charts and forecasts
    • National Weather Service products and services
    • Windshear and microburst awareness and avoidance
    • Air navigation during IMC and the National Airspace System
    • Air traffic control procedures, such as arrival, en route, and departure procedures and instrument approaches
    • Aircraft performance and weight and balance calculations
    • Aerodynamics
    • Human factors
    • Aeronautical decision-making
    • Crew Resource Management (CRM)

    Written Exam

    The FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certification Knowledge test is an 80-question test. You’re given three hours to complete it and must pass with a score of 70% or higher. You must be at least 21 years old to take the exam, and a passing score is valid for 24 months.

    Knowledge tests can be taken at any approved testing center. There are testing centers located at most large airports.

    Practical and Oral Exam

    The practical exam for the Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate includes a detailed flight planning exercise.

    With minimum details, you’ll plan a flight as a dispatcher would in real life, taking into account weather, air traffic control procedures, company requirements, aircraft maintenance issues, aircraft performance, weight and balance, fuel management, airport information and so on. You’ll be evaluated on the entire scope of the flight. The examiner will ensure you have the knowledge associated with the tasks in the practical test standards, which are outlined by the FAA.

    Any tasks or areas of importance that are not covered while reviewing your flight plan exercise will be covered during an oral exam in which an FAA-designated examiner will ask questions, and you’ll answer them.

    Getting Your Certificate

    After completion of a dispatcher certificate program, the FAA knowledge test, and the FAA practical and oral exams, you’ll be issued a temporary Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate, and you’ll be employable!