I was in my last year of college, anticipating graduating with my associate’s degree in air traffic control from LeTourneau University. From what I had been told, I knew to expect it would be at least six months to a year after graduation before I would be hired by the FAA. However, I did not want to simply complete school and move back home to work in a random, non-aviation job and wait for the magic phone call.
In the previous year, I had received a scholarship from Airbus through Women in Aviation International that had enabled me to complete my degree and earn my private pilot certificate. During my last year of college, I discovered another scholarship through WAI from the WAI Mile High Chapter for Jeppesen commercial aviation dispatch training. I had no knowledge of aviation dispatch as a career, but soon learned that dispatching was, in many ways, similar to ATC.
I received a full scholarship and completed the course for my FAA dispatch certificate. The one caveat to the FAA certificate was that I had to be 23 years old to receive my certificate, even though I completed and passed all of the exams. That meant I still had six months to burn waiting to get older!
This is where Trans States Airlines stepped into the picture. The manager of operations for Trans States interviewed most of the students in my dispatch course and suggested that I work as a crew scheduler for them until my 23rd birthday when I could switch departments and become a dispatcher. I agreed and moved to St. Louis, Missouri, a short month later.
Crew scheduling was an adventure! I gained a whole new perspective on how the airlines worked and began to uncover the bigger picture of who and what makes an airline operate. Though it may sound weird, I actually enjoyed scheduling. Every day new challenges arose that each required a different solution. Since I knew that I would be transferring to the dispatch department, I tried to incorporate what I was learning as a scheduler with how that information related to the dispatcher.
After roughly six months of scheduling, I transferred to the dispatch portion of operations.The skills that I had learned at Jeppesen were finally put to use! I saw firsthand the value of attention to detail in regards to regulations, weather, ATC, and crew duty limitations. The course at Jeppesen had so ingrained those details that they were hard to forget, even after six months. Four short months later, I was promoted to be the dispatch duty manager—this meant that I was directly responsible for the airline’s operations during my shift.
At first, the thought was a little overwhelming. “You mean you are giving me the power to cancel and delay flights?” “I haven’t even worked winter operations!” “What extra requirements will there be when we start flying to Canada?” Many different questions and concerns popped up that caused me to question my experience and ability to be a good manager. Through the help of God and my patient co-workers, I learned that I had been prepared all along for this job and just did not know it!
I absolutely love my job and would not trade it for anything. I owe my success to the faith others have in me and the skills I was able to develop due to the generosity of Airbus and Jeppesen/ Boeing through WAI’s scholarship program. For those of you who are wondering, “What is the next step?” Don’t stop looking for ways to fulfill your dream! Take life one step at a time and never allow fear or doubt hinder you from becoming the amazing woman that you truly are.
Joy Cooper, WAI 50207, is a dispatch duty manager with Trans States Airlines. She was awarded the Airbus Leadership Grant in 2012, and the WAI-Mile High Chapter Empowerment Scholarship in 2013.
LETU Class of 2013
Dispatch Duty Manager, Trans States Airlines