Perspectives: Kevin Dunn, Delta Air Lines
Written by Kevin Dunn   
My Background

My name is Kevin and I worked as a dispatcher for Delta Airlines for two years. I grew up in southern California and after a couple years of college I joined the Navy and was a EWO in P-3 Orions and later an instructor for a total duration of 9 years.

How I got started

After getting out of the Navy, I wanted to get back into flying and I decided to apply for a position as a flight engineer with Delta. However, at the time, the only two aircraft requiring flight engineers (727 & L1011) were in the process of being phased out. So instead I applied for a position in operations. I was flown out to Atlanta for the interview coutrsey of Delta.

I interviewed, had a medical and was hired. I had to move from the west coast to Atlanta and showed up for my first day of work wearing a suit and tie thinking I was hired on for some kind of office/managerial position. When showed up for my first day of training I found out to my surprise I would instead be working the ramp. I was disappointed at first but after threatening to quit my manager told me that after 6 months I could apply for a position higher up. My duties included baggage handling, push backs and operating deicing equipment, which I carried out for 6 months.

Most airlines, Delta included, you have to do your time on the ramp before you can move onto higher positions. Delta has a list of available positions to employees, there was an opening for a dispatcher and I applied. After an interview, 2 weeks of training and FAA test I was hired as a dispatcher.


A typical day as a Dispatcher

I worked at Atlanta Hartsfield "Worldport", the busiest airport in the world, 650 flights a day and that's Delta alone! My typical day started at 5:30am, on a normal day my boss would give me 30 different flights ranging from 727s to L1011s, aircraft takeoff weights ranging from 80,000lbs to 750,000lbs, flights as short as Atlanta to Huntsville AL and as long as Tokyo Japan. No two days were the same, some days I would do all local domestic flights, and other days I would do international flights.

For a typical flight I am handed a printout of where the flight is going, how many people are on the plane and aircraft type. Based on that information I would calculate how much fuel is needed for the flight. After fuel allocation then I would assign cargo and mail to the flight based on computer calculations, which also worked out the weight and balance calculations. Often the passenger load would change and I would have to redo calculations. For example the MD-80/90 is very load sensitive and any changes in passenger loading could throw out the CG. After all this was done the paper work is given to the pilots for approval. All of this is done 30 mins prior to pushback.

The whole process was then repeated with each additional flight. Breaks between dispatching duties varied from none at all up to 2 hours. There were no assigned breaks so you eat when you can. Finally the shift ended 9hrs later at 2:30pm. Other shifts included 2:30pm to 11:30pm and another from 11:30pm to 5:30am.

In Summary

Dispatching is an integral and important part of airline business. Without dispatchers, maintainers, and all the support crew there wouldn't be a way to have a disciplined flight schedule. Dispatching is a challenging job but it isn't for everyone. It can be a monotonous with limited social interaction. However, it did rekindle my goal of becoming a professional pilot, which I am currently pursuing.