Ask the Captain: What do airline dispatchers do? Why are first officers on international flights older?

What role do airline dispatchers play?

– Fly Guy John, Anchorage, Alaska

Dispatchers, who work from the airline’s operations center, are trained in similar skills as pilots but without the flight training. 

They carefully monitor weather or other conditions that could affect the flight. Weather, air traffic delays and irregular operations are just some of the important information dispatcher provide to the flight crew. 

Prior to a flight, the dispatcher reviews the weather, planned payload (passengers and cargo), estimated flight time and orders a proposed fuel load. The captain and dispatcher must be in agreement on fuel, route and conditions before the flight is released. 

Once the flight takes off, the dispatcher monitors its progress and maintains contact with the flight crew. Should the plane run into mechanical problems or other issues en route, the dispatcher is the pilot’s first point of contact.

Aviation’s extraordinary safety record is due to the team of safety professionals, which include pilots, dispatchers, flight attendants, maintenance technicians and many others. 

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