How to Become an Aircraft Dispatcher

This important job oversees crucial air safety situations

Emergency services dispatcher wearing a headset in front of a computer.

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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 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate.

Aircraft Dispatcher Responsibilities

Aircraft dispatchers 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.

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, and airport delays
  • Managing weather delays and routing or re-routing aircraft as necessary
  • Ensuring each aircraft is properly equipped, 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.
  • Canceling or delaying flights when necessary
  • Determining the best course of action during an emergency situation

Prerequisites for Aircraft Dispatcher Training

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

Aircraft Dispatcher Training

The FAA has mandated that all its 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 many of the training topics overlap.

Training for an FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Certificate will include:

  • Meteorology
  • Weather and Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) collection, interpretation, and usage
  • Interpreting weather charts and forecasts
  • National Weather Service products and services
  • Wind shear and microburst awareness and avoidance
  • Air navigation during IMC and the National Airspace System
  • Air traffic control procedures
  • Aircraft performance and weight and balance calculations
  • Aerodynamics
  • Human factors
  • Aeronautical decision-making
  • Crew Resource Management (CRM)

Written Exam for Aircraft Dispatchers

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 percent 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 Exams for Aircraft Dispatchers

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.

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.