Schedulers must possess a variety of skills to succeed, including a working knowledge of the basics of business aviation. For those schedulers who want to learn more, are there practical benefits to earning a pilot’s license, as long as cost is not a consideration?
“I think being a pilot just helps you understand what the pilots are experiencing on a daily basis,” said Lori Mincek, a dispatcher/operations coordinator for a major business aviation department. “It helps you anticipate the needs of the pilot, and you look at an airport for more than just available width and length. It allows you to know if an airport is viable before the pilots even know it is being considered. Understanding flight operations from a pilot’s perspective helps you be more in tune with your SMS early in the planning stages to lower the risk of every flight.”
Mincek is rated in the Astra SPX/G100, and while she has 1,000 hours of time in the jet, she no longer flies on a regular basis. The greatest gain she has experienced as a pilot and also a dispatcher is that the pilots respect and trust her.
“It helps in explaining maintenance issues because you understand the airplane and the importance of each system,” said Mincek. “It is just a part of who I am as a dispatcher because I look at things through a pilot’s lens.”
Mincek added that because earning a private pilot’s license is a large financial commitment, she believes the reason to earn the ticket should be your passion to fly and not your desire to be better at your dispatcher job.
Mitch Greene, an FAA-licensed dispatcher and flight scheduler for Nike Flight Operations said that nearly all of what a student learns to earn a pilot’s license is covered in the training to be certificated as an FAA dispatcher.
“The FAA test that a dispatcher takes is essentially the ATP written exam. So everything you need to know for your dispatch ticket will be the same information a pilot needs to earn their Airline Transport rating, of course without the flying requirement.”
Green has been a licensed dispatcher for 25 years, with plenty of experience in Part 121 operations, both passenger and cargo, domestic and international. While he said holding a private pilot’s license may have some benefit to a scheduler or dispatcher, someone looking to get hired in those roles may actually be hindered if they hold advanced ratings such as an ATP.
“Sometimes having a pilot’s license can be a detriment to getting a job as a scheduler or dispatcher, mainly because the consensus among hiring managers in the industry is that all pilots want to fly. They know that some pilots who are building hours might take a job as a dispatcher to get their foot in the door, but they really want to be on the throttles and will be off to the airlines or a charter operator as soon as they possibly can,” Green explained.