At flight schools the center of attention is usually the student pilots, the instructors and airplanes. However, in order for the operation to work efficiently and safely many other skilled professionals are needed. Our dispatchers are the heart of the academy. They are skilled aviation professionals who perform a wide range of tasks day-in and day-out to ensure that operations are running safely and smoothly.
A dispatcher will often be the first person you talk to when coming in for a flight. They have piloting or past aviation experience and are very dedicated to what they do. Here is a list of the ways our dispatchers help to create a safe and efficient learning environment:
- Aircraft Assignments: Dispatchers control the flow of students and assign aircraft. This ensures that the right airplane is selected for different kinds of flights (VFR or IFR) and that an airplane with a technical issue is not released.
- Scheduling of Training Events: Dispatchers work with instructors to schedule training flights to ensure that flights do not overlap with other activities and that an aircraft can be available for that flight.
- Checking In students and aircraft. When a student arrives for a flight they first notify a dispatcher that they are present. We call that checking in. After that is done, the students get their flight assigned. This should be done 30 minutes prior to a flight, so that there is time to check weather, NOTAMs, and pre-flight. Also, when a flight returns a dispatcher can check that aircraft in so that it can be released for another flight.
- Monitoring the location of aircraft. All of our aircraft have ADS-B installed, this allows our dispatchers to track each aircraft while they are flying. IIt is important to know the location of all aircraft to ensure they are where they should be and doing what is expected. It is an extra layer of safety and protection.
- Point of contact for operational matters. Dispatchers are usually the first person a student or instructor contacts for flight operations concerns. Anything from a maintenance issue, fuel request, safety concern or change of schedule or aircraft usually goes through our dispatchers. They can then delegate the necessary resources or perform the appropriate actions.
- Safety Standards: Dispatchers review current weather conditions and flight plans to ensure that students and instructors are following school guidelines, limitations and FAA regulations. This adds another level of safety during pre-flight stages. For example if winds are exceeding 20 knots or 25 knot gusts the school’s safety standard may require no solo flights or even ground all activities.
- Disseminate Safety Information: Our dispatchers routinely monitor the weather, nearby airspace, airport conditions, NOTAMS and TFRs. This information is then given to students and instructors before a flight if any serious, unsafe or potentially hazardous conditions could be encountered during flight. For example, if there is an airspace restriction in the form of a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) our dispatchers would be the first to notify you when checking in for a flight. Another example is if the airfield suddenly goes IFR while you are checking in for a flight our dispatchers would be the first to notify you of the change in conditions. This adds another level of safety during the pre-flight briefing.
Dispatch is one of those areas of our Flight Academy's operations that are often unnoticed and not understood. At the airlines it is the same. Dispatchers at the airlines are officially known as aircraft dispatchers and actually share 50% of the responsibility of a flight with the captain. Airline dispatchers also have additional tasks different from flight school dispatchers but are just as often unnoticed and not understood.
Even though in flight school operations the responsibilities are slightly different than airline dispatchers there are still many similarities in the added level of safety they provide. Nonetheless, our dispatchers are the heart of Wayman Aviation Academy and they make day to day operations run safely and efficiently. Dispatchers are a critical part of your crew. It is important to respect their knowledge and authority over a flight. Often they are looking at a bigger picture than just your single flight. They know if there’s a checkride after your activity, or if the plane you were waiting for is running late from a cross-country and can provide other options. If a dispatcher says the conditions are not right for your flight, listen to them. Trust your Dispatcher so they can trust you. How has dispatch helped you during training? Leave a comment!