Phillip Roberts

Aircraft Dispatcher Questions & Answers

By Phillip Roberts
Manager of System Operations Control, 21 Air

What goes on during a typical day in an airline operational control center?

There is never such a thing as a typical day when it comes to being a dispatcher, but that is what helps make this job so exciting. A typical day for me revolves around dispatching only a handful of flights, I work for a smaller carrier, but depending on the size of the operation that number could jump to dozens of flights during a shift all with their own unique requirements. Dispatching a flight, at its most basic, involves planning a flight start to finish. This planning could include route planning, fuel calculations, weather analysis, initial load calculations and potentially other planning items that might come up for charters.

How does the aircraft dispatcher work to ensure safety with flight crews?

The dispatcher is integral to safety in an airline. The dispatcher is required to always have access to contact the crew and as such relays real time information to the crew that might not otherwise be available to them. A perfect example of this is that the dispatcher can relay near real time weather information to the crew and help them reroute around that weather before they could even see it on their cockpit displays. There are many examples beyond the weather and many crews have been helped directly through emergency situations by dispatchers

What is your favorite thing about being an aircraft dispatcher?

My favorite thing, hands down, is the fact that no two days are the same and no two flights are the same. This variety keeps you on your toes and makes you constantly think about what is going on and makes dispatching dynamic and exciting.

Tell us about an interesting flight you managed as an aircraft dispatcher.

I have been fortunate in my short time dispatching to be a part of a number of new airline certification projects. My favorite set of flights have been the flights where we were doing proving test flights, sometimes called proving run flights, as a part of that certification. The thing about these flights is that the FAA is constantly giving scenarios to the flight crews and dispatchers making sure everyone is abiding by all of the processes and procedures in the new airline's manuals. These scenarios include hijacking, bomb threats, diversions and many other scenarios that you hope never happen in real life. These were high stress and intensity but very satisfying when we completed the proving run flights successfully.

How did your education at LeTourneau University prepare you to be in a role of leadership in aircraft dispatch?

I work for a FAA part 121 supplemental charter airline. Because it's a charter airline, I could be asked to plan flights anywhere in the world with very short notice. This "anywhere, anytime" mentality requires solid problem solving and critical thinking skills along with a deep understanding of the rules and regulations that guide the airline as a whole. It isn't enough to know the dispatcher's regulations alone; you have to know regulations across the whole airline system. I went to LeTourneau to be a become an aviation professional. The education I received at LeTourneau prepared me to step into the dispatch world because of the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are such a vital part of the LeTourneau education experience.

What are your favorite job perks of being an aircraft dispatcher?

There are a number of perks as a dispatcher but one of the best is being able to ride in the cockpit. One of my favorite flights was flying down to Miami in a 767. On this flight not only was the arrival sequence into MIA amazing but we also got to fly directly over Cape Canaveral. It was amazing to see the launch complex as well as the old space shuttle landing facility. Riding along in the cockpit allows you an amazing view compared to the small windows in the passenger compartments.

Phillip Roberts

LETU Class of 2006

Manager of Systems Operation Control, 21 Air