Friday, December 10, 2010

FAA loses track of 119,000 aircraft

Nice to see our tax dollars hard at work. Whether it is losing aircraft registration records (reported yesterday), losing airmen certification paperwork (occurs occasionally), losing our school's files dating back decades (as reported to me about 2 years ago), the innocent are always punished for the ineptitude of the guilty.

So the solution appears to be to simply re-register all 357,000 aircraft - that will surely take care of that security gap created by this mess. Here's a really neat idea: check the accuracy of all registry documents on a scheduled basis BEFORE the s**t hits the fan, develop an accuracy checking program, then digitize all documents, then duplicate all data, then repeat, then place all information of separate servers including secured digital "clouds", then repeat entire process again. Any records can be hacked, but based on history, we are our own worst enemy.

I hope no pilot ever lost their life due to an accident in his airplane that had a safety problem NOT reported to him in time (via registry data) because of just-recently discovered aircraft registry problems.

On a brighter note, I'm sure those responsible for this debacle will be punished - as we all know that means a lateral transfer to another department or a decrease in their raise next year. Heck - while the airlines, leasing companies, private aircraft owners, and banks are now losing their time and energy, the guilty parties may, in fact, only receive a minor promotion instead of a major one.

On that warm, fuzzy note I'll sign off.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Featured in the magazine:
Airline Management Decisions 2000 - This article applies now more than ever.

Aeronautics training provided by training schools and by airlines does not always correspond. Examination of the differences to reduce the gaps and improve training would be beneficial to trainers and their pupils
Eric Morris - Sheffield School of Aeronautics

The gap

Aircraft Dispatcher or Flight Control Officer training has traditionally consisted of ab initio (certification), initial, transition and recurrent training courses. A school such as ours usually conducts ab initio training, while other training courses are conducted by the airlines. Unfortunately, a gap exists between ab initio training and airline initial training. This is due to the wider curriculum requirements for Dispatcher schools as compared to specific airline instructional goals. Although a gap will always exist, the mutual objectives of training schools and airlines should be to reduce or bridge the gap by utilizing the latest technology to facilitate the learning process and to communicate with each other to determine necessary improvements.
Constructing the bridge

In the last two years, our training facility has provided simulated flight control workstations for students. In addition, students are exposed to an array of technological and visual tools to facilitate their learning, including real-time weather and flight planning software. We offer a first-look beta testing of our Dispatch Simulator where students can problem-solve a flight scenario and monitor the flight progress through live Aircraft Situation Display. They also have access to our customized Dispatch Toolkit - an electronic view of world maps, airport configurations, weather minima, climatology, conversion tables, and MEL restrictions.

Although Dispatch schools are not required to expose AB initio students to this array of visual aids, schools should avoid the minimalist approach to training and pursue progress. Challenging and testing your students are ways to show respect to an industry and profession that demands it. Schools should not undermine the airlines by licensing people who are unqualified.


Use caution

Unfortunately, technological advances may yield complacency. Occasionally, manual flight planning is considered too long or obsolete. Our students are not 'button-pushers-to-be'. They are training to become an important link in the airline operational control chain. Emphasis during AB initio or airline training must first be placed on the manual basics. It is difficult to effectively brief a crew member or oncoming dispatcher if your educational foundation is weak. A computer flight plan printout may require some clarification to the pilot-in-command: 

  • Is it a route/altitude deviation required due to jet stream migration? Are you filing a distant alternate for the destination for a particular reason?

  • Is an additional alternate being filed due to a low TAF, or decreasing trends in the sequence reports?

  • What are the specific reasons for today's excessive holding fuel?

  • Was driftdown the reason behind filing an alternate to the east of the route today?

  • What good is planning to climb above reported significant weather it the dispatcher neglects the effects of takeoff gross weight, warmer temperature conditions, and tailwinds? The lists of scenarios, restrictions, quirks, and 'gotchas' are endless.

A pilot may refuse a release based on a variety of factors, which could potentially turn the flight into a 'careless and reckless' operation. Possible operational alternatives may always be objectively discussed, but only if the dispatcher and the pilot in command respect each other's opinion. This mutual respect must be earned and is virtually impossible without a strong, well-balanced educational foundation. Since programming human judgment into a computer is not currently possible, the dispatch system, with its checks and balances, must continue to flourish. To enable it to do so productively and positively, basic and manual concepts, as well as practical applications must be emphasized and effectively balanced with the technological tools of today and tomorrow. 


Eric W. Morris is the President of the Sheffield School of Aeronautics at Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Airline Dispatcher - Job Description - FAA certification

The FAA licensed Aircraft Dispatcher can be described as "the Captain on the ground." The job of Aircraft Dispatcher is one of the most responsible and best paying jobs at an airline. While the Captain is responsible for his or her one particular flight, the dispatcher is responsible for many flights at the same time. The age requirement of 23 is the same for both the Aircraft Dispatcher and the Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. Furthermore, the questions for the FAA Aircraft Dispatcher Computerized Knowledge Test (ADX) are drawn from the same set of questions used for the ATP test.

The Aircraft Dispatcher shares responsibility for the flight with the Captain, and both are required to sign the Dispatch Release before the flight can legally operate. The dispatcher is responsible for planning the flight, taking into consideration the weather, any maintenance problems on the aircraft, navigational facilities at the appropriate airports, Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS), alternate airports and to exercise flight following while the flight is in progress. The dispatcher maintains communication with his or her flights and is responsible for notifying the Captain of any significant changes that would affect the safety of the flight. It is the responsibility of the dispatcher to delay or cancel a flight when necessary and to make any other operational decisions necessary to ensure the safety of the flight.

Most airlines will have a centrally located dispatch office that controls all flights of that particular airline. As an example, United Airlines' dispatch office is in Chicago; Delta Airlines operations and Atlantic Southeast Airlines are located in Atlanta. The dispatch department has historically been one of the best places in the airlines for promotions. The department has control over the operations of the airline and, consequently, the dispatcher is generally in close contact with the senior officers of the company. The dispatcher has always been a very important individual in the operation of an airline and will certainly continue to be so in the future.