The Lesser-explored Flight Op’s Career
Aircraft dispatching just may be the best aviation career you’ve never heard of – just start with the upwards of 150K USD they can reel in per year. They operate in the heart of an airline, the NOC (Network Operations Center), and are responsible for monitoring the progress of each flight, issuing necessary information for the safety of the flight, and cancelling or redispatching a flight if, in his [or her] opinion or the opinion of the pilot in command, the flight cannot operate or continue to operate safely as planned or released (14 CFR § 121.533). They’re airman (one of the few types who aren’t required to hold an active medical certificate) and, therefore, are generally granted cockpit jumpseat privileges (via CASS).
I’m hooked, how can I start?
It’s plain simple. The general timeline for earning a FAA aircraft dispatcher certificate takes at least 1 month. It starts with completing the Aircraft Dispatcher Knowledge Test at a FAA-designated computer testing center (visit https://faa.psiexams.com/FAA/login for a sample and to find a location near you). The test
- consists of 80-questions (very similar to those on the Airline Transport Pilot Knowledge Test),
- is subjected to a 3-hour time limit,
- requires a score of 70% or better to pass,
- costs 160 USD
- and can be prepared for by reviewing the respective practical test standards (https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/test_standards/media/FAA-S-8081-10D_change1.pdf).
Afterwards, you’ll need to accrue ~ 200-hours’ worth of training in a FAA-approved 14 CFR part 65 aircraft dispatcher certification course (visit https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/avs/offices/afx/afs/afs200/afs220/media/part65.pdf to find a course near you).
These courses vary in length, distribution of modalities (i.e. online and in-person components), cost, and some even require enrollment in a degree program so it’s crucial that you thoroughly familiarize (you’ll know this phrase by heart at the end of your training) yourself with the program and assess its compatibility with your availability and learning style before enrolling.
Once the program signs you off, you’ll be eligible to complete the Aircraft Dispatcher Practical Test with a FAA-designated aircraft dispatcher examiner (which your program will likely set-up). It will, again, cover the respective practical test standards (https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/test_standards/media/FAA-S-8081-10D_change1.pdf) with special interest in the practical skills you’ll accrue during your training.
Upon successful completion, you’ll be awarded a temporary airman certificate (followed by the permanent plastic version) if you’re at least 23-years of age. If you’re still young like I was, you’ll initially receive a letter of aeronautical competency and receive the certificate as your 23rd birthday gift.
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