What IS the most important issue for Dispatchers in Canada today?
We are the 'not a pilot' crew member. The invisible crew member. Within just about any airline in Canada dispatch has their fingers in just about everyone in the company's pie. We pull all the information, data, requirements together from all the vast divergence of departments within the airline, make sure all the ducks are in their rows, and then send the flight out. We must have some understanding of just about everyone's job, from the president on down to the ramp rat. We know where the bodies are buried, and who's doing what.
I could make a valid arguement that we are the critical lynch pin of the operations.
However, within a lot of airlines, with a lot of pilots, and a lot of management, we are forgotten. There is little understanding of what we do, how we do it, and what is really important to us in terms of working conditions, tools, or regulations.
Exactly because we are NOT pilots, in a pilot based industry.
We have very little representation within our various organizations (and if you do I'd LOVE to hear from you!). Chief Pilots - are pilots, Directors of Flight Operations - are pilots, Vice Presidents of Flight Operations - are pilots. They MUST be by law.
Moreso, we have almost NO representation within the regulatory body that oversees our industry.
Let me make one thing clear. I'm not picking on pilots. Non of us would have a job without them (just ask em!). I love this industry. If you're here, I suspect you love it too. We frequently put up with low pay, long hours, and little credit. We do it because we love this industry. We believe in being a part of it. I believe sincerely that dispatchers have a great deal to contribute towards making our industry better.
However, we need representation in order to do that.
Transport Canada has exactly ONE expert in the area of Dispatch - the Inspector Operational Control, Flight Watch & Dispatch. Like the Directors of Flight Ops, and VP's of Flight Ops, all POI's are required to be .. pilots. Most POI's I've met are good solid conscientious individuals, who have little training, and minimal understanding of Dispatch. I've had POI's doing my Check Dispatch Monitor tell me, "you know more about this than I do." I've had them more interested in the overall management structure of the company than in the check I was performing. Now that's fine if we're in an audit situation, it's frustrating when you're trying to do a Comp Check.
There is within the CARS clearly defined requirements for the Chief Pilot, and even for the Flight Attendant Manager, but there isn't even a requirement to have a Chief Dispatcher, let alone define his/her role, or credentials. Even the regulations around the training requirements for dispatchers are poorly written, a bit confusing, and frankly - vague. Pilots have things like duty time, time off requirements, and other work related stress issues clearly addressed in the CARS. Dispatchers do not.
In Canada, dispatchers are not represented within Transport Canada, and while many Canadian dispatchers are members of the IFALDA, there is no advocate within Canada for Canadian dispatchers. No one to speak to our needs within TC's structure, or within the law.
This is not the case in the U.S. where the ADF has been a powerful advocate for dispatchers. Following the Avianica Flight 052 accident in 1990, the ADF was formed by a number of U.S. members of the IFALDA and they were instrumental in having the lack of Operational Control oversight listed among the contributing factors.
"Further from the NTSB report, "There was no flight following or interaction with the Avianca Airlines dispatcher for AVA052 following takeoff from Medellin ...Contributing to the accident was the flight crew's failure to use an airline operational control dispatch system to assist them during the international flight into a high-density airport in poor weather." This accident, along with Hapag-Lloyd Flight 3378, has been used as an example of why airlines in different countries should always have proactive flight following by Flight Dispatchers, as required in the U.S. by Federal Aviation Regulations Part 121."
From the NTSB's report: 1.5.5 "Regarding the interpretation of meteorological and navigational information, the dispatcher's training records showed no instruction. The spaces on the training forms that contained the words "meteorology" and "navigation" were not filled out.
From 2.2 "The Safety Board believes that Avianca Airlines, the DAAC, and the international aviation community, in general, policies, procedures, should review their respective and training to ensure that adequate emphasis is being placed on the dual responsibility that flight dispatchers and flightcrews have in keeping each other informed of events and situations that differ from those mutually agreed upon in the dispatch release."
It was in large part this accident that led to the formation of the ADF, and it too began life advocating for dispatch inspectors. The ADF wanted dispatch inspectors on par with POI's and while the FAA did not create the position at the Principal level the position was created. Now in the U.S. dispatchers are inspected, and monitors performed by DISPATCHERS, not pilots.
What would it take to change this? Not much. The creation of a new position within Transport Canada of the 'Dispatch Inspector' one per region would be a very good start. That would be 6 regional inspectors, 1 at HQ, all overseen by the Inspector Operational Control, Flight Watch & Dispatch. This small start would create a core group of dispatch specialists who not only would better be able to oversee the monitor of licensed dispatchers in Canada, but would also be able to speak to regulatory issues as pertains to dispatch.
Currently? There isn't even a method by which a dispatcher can apply to Transport Canada. The federal government's giant civil service employment application website doesn't even recognize the category. If you apply for a TC Aviation position you'd better be ready to state your type ratings and number of flight hours.
One way we can possibly get the word out to Transport that we as dispatchers want / need / believe that it is critically important to have our skills assessed and judged by those who have done the job is to use the CAIRS.
CAIRS (Civil Aviation Issues Reporting System) is one way we have of voicing our concerns to Transport Canada. An informal form of raising issues and concerns without having to open a formal complaint, it is the right of any and every citizen and permanent resident of Canada to request that concerns be heard and redressed.
I urge you to use either the online form, or print off the form and mail it in. Friends, family, collegues who understand the issue and what's at stake? Get them to fill one out as well. It is their right.
So often regulatory change in our industry comes at the end of a major disaster. Lets see if we can initiate needed change without it taking an Avianca 052, or a Dryden, to make it happen.
Vicky - May 2010