What does it take to be a good a dispatcher?


New Member
I've strongly been considering pursuing the dispatching career in the future, and am currently gathering as much information as I can about that career area. It seems like an excellent way to participate in logistics, feel "ownership" in a large, neat process of airline / aircraft ops, and be involved with aviation in an intimate way... without the struggles of huge debt and 10 years of poverty that piloting brings. I know the money is not as good, but I'm not looking to get rich... just to find a job that is rewarding for the 40 or 50 hours a week I need to work.

Any comments / suggestions / observations on the dispatching career, where it's headed, how to get involved, where to pursue training, mindsets, things I should be aware of, etc? Anything and everything would greatly be apprecated!

For the record, I know that dispatching is a very "niche" career and now is certainly not the time to pursue it... I plan to remain in my current profession (public accounting) until August 2006, and then consider other possibilities.
Best advice to a dispatcher?

Realize that captains usually know whats going on out there. Use them as assets and don't argue with them!
What does it take..1st is money to get license. Then after that use common sense and all sources.
Ummm, thanks Tim. I was looking for something a bit more constructive than money, common sense, and resource utilization
My ears are burning.

I'll reply shortly... I'm at work at the moment, so I don't have the time right this second to put up a meaningful replay, but I thought I'd throw a reply up to indicate that further information is forthcoming...

Make sense? <grin>

Thanks pljenkins, I'd appreciate anything and everything you can say on the topic! I saw your on the MAPD yahoo groups, do you work for JO?
I am in the same spot. Love aviation and want to work in airline operations but dont know about living life on the road. I am also looking at dispatch. I had asked some stuff about it in the past and thought I was the only one at jetcareers looking at dispatch. Guess, I am not the only one. Does any one know what is the best dispatch school?
Okay, I suck... I didn't get that info to you today.... Which I suppose I could tell you happens in this job sometimes. Bad weather, broke airplanes, security issues.. Can I get an AMEN?!

I used to work for JO at Air Midwest... But I got better. <grin>

I'll post that tomorrow.. PROMISE!

Wait a second... Bad weather, broke airplanes, security issues? Forget dispatching.

Ah ha, just kidding. Thanks pljenkins for your offer to help.
Air Middie huh? By any chance did you work Florida '99-'00?

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Hehe... Nope.. Started there in November of '01.

I have seen the depths of Hell... and it is Chicago ARTCC when there's thunderstorms in Chicago...

First order of business, I'd suggest a little stroll around Airline Dispatchers Federation . This site has alot of good information about what it is we mystery men (and women) do, besides ruin your travel plans.

That site will likely answer alot of your questions, and if you come up with any others, I'd be glad to answer them for ya! I love what I do, but let me tell ya, if you want to be a pilot, working this job will only make you want to be one more!

The airline I work for is technically a "regional" airline, but we fly coast to coast and into Canada, with some legs over 1000 miles, so we do sort of blur the line, so my perspective will be from that point of view.

In general terms, dispatcher work isn't very hard... Traits that will help you succeed in this business are the ability to handle multiple tasks in a stressful environment, be comfortable making command decisions and the ability to remember your name after 10 rounds with Holyfield.

Mindsets... Hmmm... Well, I think the best advise I ever got from a fellow dispatcher was to never "go negative". This job, like most, will work under your skin at times.. It's important to not lose your cool and start "going negative". You can bet that on a bad day everyone who's calling you is already in a bad mood. They know it's not your fault, and you need to remember that when they're venting at you! No matter what happens, your toes are still tapping.

Where the field is heading.. Well, that's kind of the six million dollar question. A few years ago, the career path was to work the regionals for a few years, get a job with the majors and away you went. Since the Regional explosion and the subsequent downsizing of the majors fleets, the path to the majors is much more difficult and much less secure. That being said, pay and quality of life are improving for us regional guys. You'll find some of the dispatch schools talking about dispatchers that make six figure saleries and some such. Though the pay can get pretty good, I think it's unrealistic in this current business environment to expect to make huge bucks as a dispatcher. You can carve out a pretty good life though with what you can make.

Some other thoughts... The more flexible you are, the better your chances of advancing in Dispatch. As a junior dispatcher fresh out of school, the more flexible you are, the more choices you have. I myself started my dispatch career in beautiful, exotic Wichita, Kansas. Not the best place in the world, but it gave me the experience I needed to move on to a more lucritive opportunity. The good news is, even though you won't be raking in legendary coin, your cost of living in the cities the regionals are based in are pretty reasonable. Wichita was dirt cheap (well, there was alot of dirt, too) and Appleton isn't all that expensive either. Though I'm sure the opportunity to work for a major like Delta or United will exist in the future for me, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to do it. I like it here, and I've lived in Chicago long enough to get my fill of traffic problems and Richard Daley. <grin>

Well, back to trying to piece together the ruins that are this day in flight operations... Please take the time to check out that site and throw some more questions my way.. I'll be happy to answer them.

I have seen the depths of Hell... and it is Chicago ARTCC when there's thunderstorms in Chicago...


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Hell, I'd think working ground at ORD would be bad enough!
Thanks pl! I've checked out the ADF website, a good site. A while back I was researching this profession and stumbled upon a guy's website... it was all chock full of dispatch-related items and the guy clearly loved his job... I can't seem to find that page anymore. It was distinctive as it was so full of dispatch stuff, just jam-packed on the first page. Do you happen to remember or know what site I'm talking about?

I'll post more Q's when I have constructive questions to ask. For now, I noticed the Will Dispatch For Food site is down permanently, and that was useful for estimating a range of dispatch salaries. Out of curiosity, what is the rough range for carriers like yours in Appleton? What school did you attend to snag your ADX training? Any suggestions? Thanks for your help! I realize flexibility is the only way to go... I'm strongly looking at Sheffield West and SkyWest in St. George as one possibility in 2006. We'll see, who knows!
"if you want to be a pilot, working this job will only make you want to be one more!"

thats a good point. I also am looking at dispatching but after hearing that I am leaning back on the piloting side of things. I have one question that I hope you can answer, that I have been trying to get answer from so many places and never really get one. That is "is the ramp tower, staffed by dispatchers?" It seems like another thing that I may want to do if I am not a pilot, so anything you could say to that would be helpful.
I have one question that I hope you can answer, that I have been trying to get answer from so many places and never really get one. That is "is the ramp tower, staffed by dispatchers?"

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Yes. Been at the ramp tower at America West at PHX, and it's dispatchers.
Yeah, the Will Dispatch For Food site is gone. The guy who was running got out of the business and no one else offered to keep the site up, so away it went.

Regional pay for dispatchers run a pretty big range. At the bottom end is places like American Eagle at around $20K/yr. Air Midwest, where I was before, was something like $22k/yr. Mesa Jet is Phoenix is $21.5k. Air Wisconsin starts at around $29k/yr, but we're pounding out our first contract, so that number may change.

As for schools, I went to Airline Flight Dispatch Training Academy in Hurst, TX. Actually, interestingly enough, if you click on "current class" you'll see a photo of the class I was in. Clearly it's not the current class, but what the heck... I'm in the front row sitting down, third from the left. It's an aweful picture. It was 105 degrees that day. 'nuff said. Anyway, AFTDC was a decent school... It's a 6 week course where you basically eat, sleep and breathe dispatch. The training is good, the job placement, at least in my opinion, was overstated. They say they'll help you and do alot of the work for you. Well, granted they did help by the idea that their program is well known around the airline industry and so there's alot of opportunity listed, but they don't do much to help you with the leg work. Don't let that concern you, though. All of us that wanted a job pretty much had one lined up before class was out. Of course, September 11th really screwed up those plans, but in reality, most of us made a pretty good recovery, with many of us not even losing our new jobs. For training, I'd say that you should certainly do alot of research before you go. There are the "cram course" places like AFDTC which takes about 6 weeks of intense training, but there are also programs that go on 18 months. Personally, I think the 6 week courses are great, especially for someone who has an aviation background or at least a working knowlege of aviation.

I'm, curious, why wait until 2006?

Hey, thanks for the links and additional advice.

Your school's site has this in the welcoming paragraph: "Airline hiring has dramatically increased. Our graduates are getting hired by airlines all over the country. After 9/11, things slowed down alot. In mid-2002 things picked up. Now, in April 2003, airline hiring has reached an excellent rate."

An excellent rate, nice.

You graduated in 2001 eh? Congrats on nailing down positions with regionals in that time. Judging by what I've read on the yahoo groups dispatchercentral, jobs seem few and far between.

That's a huge class in your picture.

You said most of you had jobs lined up before graduation... how so? Legwork / networking / e-mailing resumes during school? You started at ASA and then switched to Air Whiskey?

I'm waiting until 2006 because I have a training cost contract at my current employer... if I leave before August 13th 2006 I'll owe my firm lots of cash.

Trying for now to research all my options and see if the stress is the kind that I'd enjoy. Do you get a good feeling of ownership, like you make the airline work? Do you have a high level of job satisfaction?

Thanks again.