Frequently Asked Questions
Who are you guys?
We are an association of professional airline dispatchers in Canada.
What do you do?
We educate - each other, the industry, and the general public on the valuable role dispatchers play in safe operational control, in the airline industry. Where necessary we advocate for dispatchers and dispatch interests with Transport Canada.
You mean like a union?
No. We are not a union. We do not participate in labour negotiations, or advocate with individual employers. Rather we represent the profession as a whole with the regulatory agencies.
What is a dispatcher?
An airline dispatcher is the trained and certified professional who builds and calculates the flight plans, and together with the flight crew co-ordinates with operational and commercial departments to see that the flights under their watch meet all the required needs of passenger comfort and safety. We provide the eyes and ears on the ground to the flight crew in the air after departure - monitoring all factors enroute that might affect the flight.
So are you like ATC?
Nope. ATC coordinates the various traffic from all the aircraft in the sky. The provide directions to each aircraft to keep them from getting to close to one another.Think of them as the traffic cop of the sky, directing the aircraft. Dispatchers plan the flights - where are they going today, and the best route to get there, how much fuel they'll need, amongst other things. We work for the airline, ATC controllers work for NavCanada.
How do I become a dispatcher?
Every certified dispatcher in Canada is required to complete two generic written examinations administered by Transport Canada. FD Ops - covers operational topics, FD Met - covers meteorology. Completed exams are valid for two years. There are courses available you can take to prepare you for these exams (see links page), while these courses are invaluable to prepare you for the exams, and for future employment, they are not required to write the examinations. Transport Canada publishes a Study Guide in order to help you prepare to write the exams.
Once those exams are completed, you're eligable to begin 'on the job training' with an employer. Through the 'on the job training' requirements you'll do both classroom study in that airlines operations and aircraft, as well as real time real world training with a certified dispatcher. While operators will have a minimum training time specified in their SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) there is no specific total time frame for this training - as like a pilots' license - you're ready when you're ready. Expect this process to take anywhere from 2 - 6 months or longer to complete. At the completion of your training, you'll undergo an examination while on the job - known as the competency check, this may be conducted by a Transport Canada examiner, or by someone within your company who has been approved by Transport to conduct comp checks - a check dispatcher. After satisfactory completion of the comp check you will be given a certification valid for one year.
Every year there after you'll do a course of recurrent classroom study, fam flights, and a recurrent competency check. Your certification is valid only while you're employed with that particular airline. If you leave that employer after you're certified for another company, your written exams are still valid for two years, but you will have to undergo the on the job training and certification process with your new employer.
Where will I get a job? / Is it possible to train near to home or is it like the pilot side of things requiring you to chase the work?
There are airlines with Type B and Type A operational control systems in just about every province in Canada, however they can be a bit far apart. Chances are like pilots you'll begin your career at a smaller, or regional, carrier, then as you gain some experience you might want to move on to a larger national or international carrier. There are also some flight planning organizations that also hire certified dispatchers. Depending on where you live, you may find work close to home, or you may find a job that requires moving. Typically most dispatchers do not commute, although it is possible with some of the major carriers.