In the aviation industry, there are plenty of meaningful careers outside of being a pilot, and one of them is being a dispatcher.
Dispatchers work for passenger airlines, cargo carriers and other transportation companies with fleets of planes. Dispatchers are key players in the operational success of these companies. They are a pilot’s trusted partner on the ground, keeping planes running safely and on time. Their responsibilities include:
- Monitoring weather developments
- Developing flight plans
- Making real-time adjustments to flight plans to account for weather or other unexpected situations
- Maintaining communications with flight crews
Aviation experts predict overall growth in the industry, which is expected to result in high demand for certified dispatchers.
How is this different from air traffic control?
You may be wondering, how is this different from an air traffic controller? They also communicate with pilots and have the authority to redirect flights during bad weather and unexpected emergencies.
The key difference is that air traffic controllers work for the Federal Aviation Administration. They are only responsible for monitoring a flight from the moment it enters their air space until it leaves, whereas a dispatcher’s responsibility is from pre-flight through post-flight.
What you need to know about training
Being a dispatcher requires an FAA license. That license comes with the following requirements:
- You must be at least 23 years old.
- You must have a high school diploma or equivalency.
- You must speak English
- You must undergo 200 hours of training with an FAA approved program
- You must pass the FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Knowledge Test and Practical Test
Assuming you meet the first three prerequisites, you’re ready to move on to training. Training courses are available through a multitude of colleges and universities as well as flight schools and other outlets. You can take your training in a traditional classroom setting or online.
Once you’ve found a program, it’s a good idea to confirm that they are FAA approved. You can find a list of approved program providers here.
Training covers a multitude of topics, including:
- U.S. regulations and laws
- Weather interpretation
- Principles of air navigation
- Air traffic control procedures
- Aircraft loading, weight and balance
- Decision making and judgement
- Crew communication and coordination
If you have previous experience as a pilot or in the aviation industry, you may be able to substitute that experience for a portion of the minimum 200 hours of training.
After completing the course, you’re ready to take the FAA test.
The knowledge and practical tests
The FAA allows you to take the knowledge test as early as 21, even though you cannot earn your certification until age 23.
The knowledge test is a multiple-choice examination that covers the topics you learned about in training. It is 80 questions long and you have 3.5 hours to finish.
You must score at least a 70 percent to pass.
The practical test takes place with an examiner. Test takers must show that they can plan flights, dispatch planes and develop and communicate emergency procedures.
If you’re nervous about the practical test, Pilot Mall can help you make sure you are as prepared as possible.