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Flight dispatchers in the UK should be licensed because of the intensity and importance of their jobs. Other western nations such as Canada and the US have accepted licensing as an instrumental part of aircraft operations and it is about time that the UK did the same.
Why aircraft flight dispatchers should be licensed
First and foremost, the nature of the flight dispatcher’s task is too important to be left unlicensed. Since it is the legal responsibility of the flight dispatcher (as well as the pilot) to ensure the safety of an aircraft, then this job must be done well. A dispatcher has the power and mandate to cancel, delay or divert a flight or merely to release it for takeoff. (Bureau of labor, 2006) In this regard, flight dispatchers need to have a deep understanding of weather patterns as well as the field of aviation itself. The level of knowledge that these individuals ought to have when it comes to operations control should be more or less the same as a pilot’s. There are several legal obligations that all flight dispatchers need to adhere to before giving aircrafts the go-ahead to commence. Aside from that, these same individuals still have to monitor an aircraft’s progress as it continues in its journey. (Morriu, 2008) A series of computer systems are required to do this and one must be constantly aware of their external environment to inform the flight crew of any issues that could compromise their safety. Therefore, negligence on the part of the dispatcher could be fatal to travelers or crew members. Given these important tasks, it is crucial to license such individuals so that all these skills are sharpened before they can start dealing with real lives. (Ambrose, 2009)
It should also be noted that the level of education for flight dispatchers is not as intense as it is in other aircraft operations jobs. Consequently, certain persons can be let through into the system without necessarily possessing the rigor required to perform such tasks – a license would prevent the likelihood of this occurrence.
Several issues in the airline industry have also occurred that necessitate more stringent requirements for flight dispatchers. First of all, there has been a greater concern for airline safety standards across the world and this is the same as UK aerospace. Several countries have passed various Acts to ensure that passengers are protected and those legislations often involve flight dispatcher licensing requirements. The region, therefore, needs to catch up with the rest of the world. (Hollis, 2006)
Another factor that also points towards a need for flight dispatcher certification is the increasing level of complexity in UK aircraft systems. Statistics indicate that the United Kingdom is a renowned leader in several aircraft programs such as Boeing aircraft, Airbus aircrafts as well as military aircraft. Also, several assemblies and sub-assemblies are done by aircraft manufacturers in the UK. (Gang Yu, 2009) Given these occurrences, then there is a need for carrying out daily checks on aircraft as well as a need to do more complicated safety checks. Aircraft systems also incorporate a series of other specialized areas such as flight and fuel systems, ground support, communications equipment, environmental control, avionics, ejection seats, and computer systems, landing gear, and many more. For all these aircraft components to be coordinated, there is a need for efficiency among all sectors of aircraft operations. (Gimblett & Hughes, 2007) Every single person must carry out his or her duties well to ascertain that aircraft carry cargo or people efficiently and safely. A reasonable number of professionals are involved in making aircraft systems operable; most of them are licensed and this makes them more dependable. Therefore, the flight dispatching sector should also follow suit to ensure that the best results are obtained in the entire airline industry. (McGinley, 2007)
Busy airline routes tremendously affect the work being done by aircraft flight dispatchers. Statistics indicate that the UK is home to some of the busiest routes in the continent of Europe. As of 2008, there were approximately four point two million passengers who flew between London and Ireland’s capital. On top of that, roughly four point two million passengers flew between London and the City of New York. Heathrow is the busiest center and most individuals are interested in flying both locally and internationally. Given the rate at which people are moving between various parts of the region, there is a need for greater coordination and efficiency during flights. Pilots may be overwhelmed if left to handle all these busy routes on their own. The task of the flight dispatcher is, therefore, more relevant and pronounced in such an environment and must be performed to perfection. The best way to ensure such perfection is through the issuance of licenses that examine all the critical areas needed to handle flight dispatching.
Since the primary concern of the flight dispatcher is to ensure that aircraft fly in safe environments, then it is essential to look at some of the safety concerns within the Airline industry over the past few years. It has been shown that aviation accidents and aviation incidences are some of the most worrying issues facing the aviation sector presently. The International Civil aviation annex defines an aviation accident as any structural failure or damage to an aircraft that can cause serious injury or death to persons who have boarded an aircraft with an intention of flight. On the other hand, an aircraft incident is any occurrence besides an accident that could compromise the safety and operation of an aircraft. (Sullenberger, 2009)
Several aviation accidents and incidences have occurred over the past decades and these have caused concern over the management of airline operations. Perhaps the most well-known tragedy in this millennium was the September eleventh attack that took place in New York. This intentional crash led to the death of slightly over two thousand nine hundred people in the twin towers. Also, in the year 1985, the world witnessed another terrifying aviation accident that occurred to Japan Airline passengers. About five hundred and twenty of them died because the aircraft’s bulkhead had not been repaired properly. (Rust, 2008) In 1996 a Saudi flight and Kazakhstan Air flights went on a head-on collision thus causing the death of 349 people. In this year (2009) alone, some of the accidents that have occurred include the Air France crash in Brazil, Yemeni flight at sea, and Caspian Airline flight all these crashes caused the death of 228, 152, and 168 people respectively. (Aviation Safety Network, 2009)
The occurrence of one aircraft accident can cause hundreds of death at a time thus explaining why this mode of transport poses a substantial risk to persons who choose to utilize it. Airline operations personnel must therefore go out of their way to prevent such issues by examining all the risk factors that could hamper people’s well-being. (KRQE, 2009). An aircraft flight dispatcher needs to know the meteorological conditions: at the departure and landing zones, within the designated route of the plane, and also in an alternate airport as these issues can affect the condition of the craft. (Rosenberger, 2009) Aside from that, the flight dispatcher ought to consider fuel consumption levels i.e. fuel needed for the journey without any emergencies, fuel needed if weather patterns change, the fuel needed in the event of a change of airports, and also fuel for holding. Failure to accommodate any of these issues can lead to an aviation incident that may culminate into an accident. Also, flight dispatchers need to know how far an aircraft can navigate, its maximum weight, and its general suitability for flight. All these issues indicate a combined responsibility with pilots to secure the safety of anyone on board. (Wensveen, 2005) As it can be seen these are all immense tasks. To ensure that flight dispatchers can offer timely and accurate information to prevent accidents, then a rigorous licensing process should be instated. This can go a long way in making aircraft are safer mode of travel than they currently are. Unlicensed flight dispatchers may know some of the latter mentioned elements but some of them may not have polished up on all of them. (Rapajic, 2009) Consequently, such Airlines are taking a gamble with people’s lives because their personnel’s lack of knowledge in one area could be the sole reason for the occurrence of an accident. (Bazargan, 2004)
Outline of what such a license can involve
Other countries that have flight dispatcher licenses usually achieve this by first starting with their parliaments. (Arscott, 2004) The government is supposed to pass legislation on mandatory licensing for flight dispatchers such that tighter regulation may be achieved. Once this is done, then regulations concerning all the legal requirements involving aircraft dispatch, monitoring, and safety will need to be put down. Since a flight dispatcher’s knowledge levels should be similar to those of pilots, then the exams done by UK pilots before getting their licenses should be the same ones that flight dispatchers do as they both hold joint responsibility for safety. (Hyland, 2009)
In such a license, it will be necessary to first start with the definition of who the flight dispatcher is as an understanding of the term may differ from country to country. The general responsibility of the flight dispatcher should be outlined and this may include: responsibility for the control of the aircraft, delegation duties, and emergencies as well. (Department for Transport, 2009) Specific duties need to be put in place as well and these may include: offering assistance to the in command pilot, preparation of operational flight plans, giving the in command pilot information about safety, and also details about what to do during emergency cases. Here, flight dispatchers need to start actions that have been outlined by the Civil Aviation Authority on emergencies. (Civil Aviation Authority, 2009) That individual also needs to work hand in hand with the in-command pilot to give him all the information that he will require to safely transport onboard members to a suitable destination. (Shaw, 2008)
The flight dispatcher license may also include other issues concerning the admission of such persons into an Airline. For instance, it may include information about the flight dispatchers’ minimum experience working in an Airline or the age-appropriate for such a job. It must also specify the minimum allowable training needed to become a flight dispatcher and the contents of that training syllabus should also be outlined.
Lastly, this license should also give details of some of the skills that the flight dispatcher needs to have. For example, it may list the following: an understanding of how various aircraft equipment work, an understanding of radio communication equipment, an understanding of several operations elements, and flight load details. In the latter area, the flight dispatcher should be familiar with the balance control issues, escape routes, and any approved exit or entry areas as well as the tasks of other staff members who possess operational control challenges. (Wells, 2002)
Licensing of aircraft flight dispatchers is an incredible and necessary idea in the Airline industry. This is because the level of education needed for this job is not as high as other professionals running aircraft, accidents are a harsh reality in air travel, aircraft systems have become highly complex and there is a lot involved in this job description. If licenses are issued in the UK for these airline operators, then pilots can be granted timely and accurate information that will make air travel more efficient and secure.
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