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EASA and Flt Dispatchers

Old 5th Jul 2004, 09:14
  #1 (permalink)  
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EASA and Regulating Flight Ops Personnel (Flight Dispatch Licence)

Is everyone aware that EASA (loosely the EU driven JAA raplacement) is asking whether it should regulate flight dispatchers and feedback to EASA has a deadline of July 31st 2004?

I'm not 'of this forum' but I'm trying to get private pilots to respond to lots of EASA questions by 31st July - but one of the 15 questions they are asking is whether they (EASA) should include Flight Dispatchers in their regulatory remit. I noticed during a search of PPRuNe that there was no mention of EASA on this forum,

Question number 15 in the current request for feedback from EASA reads as here in blue, and YOU, if you are a Flight Dispatcher, are a 'stakeholder' in their terms:

Question 15:
a) Do stakeholders agree that cabin crew should hold a licence issued on the basis of common implementing rules adopted by the Commission?
b) Do stakeholders agree that flight dispatchers should hold a licence issued on the basis of common implementing rules adopted by the Commission?

So if you've any views on whether Flight Dispatchers should be licensed by the EU, feedbaclk is needed to EASA, on their own forms, by the end of July 2004.
To find out how, have a look at:
EASA Post on Cabin Crew Forum

Last edited by JB007; 21st Jul 2004 at 14:31.
Irv is offline  
Old 5th Jul 2004, 11:40
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Irv, well done for posting on this issue. It is very important for those in the UK aviation industry to comment on these proposals, it may well shape the future of the operations officer/flight dispatcher training/qualifications for the future, or not as the case may be.

With EASA on the rise and the JAA on the way out early yellow papers two years ago or more, on the requirements for the licencing of FOO/Dispatchers or setting of minimum training standard have been sidelined in the JAA, it appears to be re-surfacing here.

Do make a point of ensuring your Ops Managers know about this issue. Also, I have no doubt UKOMA will be commenting on this!

With credit to Irv for posting this copy of EASA comments...

Others leave it to air operators to verify that some regulatory requirements are met. It is time now to take a clear position about the way the Community shall regulate this category of workers. An option, taking into account the safety nature of their tasks, would be to attest compliance through the issuing of a licence by national authorities on the basis of common implementing rules. As far as flight dispatchers are concerned, there is also a need to decide whether the Community should create a uniform need for a licence or not.

Last edited by no sig; 5th Jul 2004 at 15:08.
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Old 9th Jul 2004, 10:07
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Has anyone formed an opinion on whether we need a Flight Ops Officer/Flight Dispatcher licence in Europe?

It seems to me that this is an important step by the JAA and soon to be EASA towards our community. Has anyone discussed it with your Company and responded to the EASA questionaire?
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Old 14th Jul 2004, 13:12
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I've "stuck" this to the top....I think it's important we try and get a response...

Thanks Irv!
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 10:57
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The discussion document and the position of licencing was discussed at last Thursday's UKOMA meeting. Individual members will be repsonding to the questionaire.
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Old 20th Jul 2004, 20:15
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Long overdue

Gd'evning all,

I think the issue of making licences mandatory for flight-ops controllers/dispatchers is long overdue. It's about time that something solid was done to make this profession on par with the way it is in the US. I've worked with too many dopes who knew s.f.a about weight/balance, how to read performance graphs/tables, had'nt a clue about met apart from a shakey decoding of a Metar or even read computerised flight plans yet claim to competent in their chosen profession! It's about time peoples cages were rattled, asses whipped into shape, training programs implemented, exams taken/passed, licences then issued.....no Grandfather rights...No Excuses...
Nuff Said !

Templar +
Old 20th Jul 2004, 22:05
  #7 (permalink)  
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JB007 well done with the sticky thing. I am/was really surprised at the lack of response to the orignal posting. In fact it still doesn't seem to be getting the views that it deserves, perhaps a change of title?

Opsbod very pleased to hear UKOMA and the Chairman has taken hold of this one.Talk soon.

For what its worth, my view;

ICAO recommends the licensing of FOO/FD’s. Implicit in that recommendation is the recognition that the duties of FOO/FD’s have a flight safety implication and as such, there is requirement for airline operational personnel to be trained to standard which will ensure operational competence. This requirement must be part of any future European EASA regulations. It must be embodied in all Air Operators (AO) Operations and Manuals (part D).

This however, does not imply that EASA must adopt the US FAR121 style of flight release and joint dispatch authority. This is often confused with the licensing question and has led to much resistance in Europe to the licensing of FOO/FD’s.

What we need in Europe is a common standard for the training of FOO/FD’s and a means of accreditation which is recognized EASA and by each member state, it need not be in the form of a formal license. Although I personally support that, I have little hope of industry and NAA wide acceptance for such a relatively small number of operational personnel.

My recommendations can be summarized as follows:

• Establish a requirement for the qualification of FOO/FD’s to a minimum European (EASA) standard before they can exercise operational control on the behalf of a European state AOC. Accreditation or Qualification being the completion of a recognized course and the passing of exams to FCL equivalent standards and pass marks. Not a license necessarily, but a flight operations qualification which is recognized within EASA and holds that status.

• Adopt ICAO Doc 7192 D3 as the training syllabus and standard or produce an EASA equivalent, update the syllabus to include European requirements and new technologies.

• Establish a requirement for all FOO/FD training organizations to hold EASA or National Aviation Authority (NAA) approval.

• Do not leave it to the airlines to do their own training. Unless, as with TRTO’s, they have an accredited training organization approved to conduct FOO/FD training.

• As with flight crew licensing, a JAR ATPL covers all aircraft types, so the FOO/FD’s minimum standard should cover all types of air operations and not tailored to suit individual airlines requirements or operations, it must be a generic syllabus.

Flight safety is enhanced by having high levels of competence at each link in the operational chain, FOO/FD’s have long been neglected in many European states and it behooves EASA to rule in favour of a requirement which introduces a pan European standard and qualification for Flight Operations Officers/Flight Dispatchers

Last edited by no sig; 20th Jul 2004 at 22:47.
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Old 21st Jul 2004, 16:30
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Thumbs up

The need for mandatory professional qualifications for Operations Control, Flight Dispatch and their Operational Support section(s), is something that I have felt necessary for a very long time (Since the early 1980's). A move to an EU wide 'licensing system' will be of benefit to not only license holder as they will be recognized as professionals in their field, but of benefit to the Airlines and Handling Agencies (Something CEO's and Bean Counters ignore).

It will be interesting how the industry responds as unfortunately in the UK Airline and Ground Handling industries, training in ground subjects and indeed ground staff development in general has been one of the first areas to be cut when money is tight (almost insultingly many companies trumpet their commitment to staff development, whilst reducing their training to purely functional, or worse on the job only)

I wonder what percentage of UK staff in Operations and Flight Dispatch have passed City and Guilds Aviation Studies part 3. Advanced Operations/Flight Dispatch?
Of those that have, how many did it without company assistance?

A regulatory requirement whether national, or international, whilst not resolving the problem, will force companies to actually put money into professional training.

I can only hope UKOMA will:
a) Support this whole wholeheartedly.
b) The members use just the threat of regulation, to force the issue of improving training for Control Centre and Flight Dispatch staff, within their own Airlines.

I only wish instead of ‘I hope’ I was confident enough in UKOMA to have written ‘I am certain’
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Old 21st Jul 2004, 22:30
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Great news and something that is long overdue.

I have to agree with the points raised above re the standards of dispatch and ops around the country and into Europe. There are far too many so called fully trained and experienced staff who think that they know the business inside out, but when it comes down to dealing with irregular problems, they are the first to guess and that only makes some issues worse.

I have two points to make:

1/ Does this mean that all staff dealing with ops / dispatch need to be licenced or can it just be the supervisor / DO on duty?

2/ Will the effected staff use this to try and increase salaries and would the airlines pay an increase to cover training costs and assist in the retention of staff?

Maybe this should be sent to the Main forum to get the views of the flight crews who must see various standards throughout the country and Europe.

Thanks to all and enjoy the rest of the summer!!!
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Old 30th Jul 2004, 01:20
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This upgrade is long overdue. It should be a Europe wide requirement. There have been Europe wide incidents and accidents that relate to the vulnerability (nonexistence)of dispatch/operational control in Europe. Here are some of them.

• Maersk Air B737, Billund, Denmark, December 1999, encountered severe weather, had outdated weather information, destination and alternates closed; fuel emergency.
• Hapag-Lloyd A310, Vienna, July 2000, experienced aircraft system failure (landing gear unable to retract), flight continued, misjudgement by crew, and poor support by the company, fuel exhaustion, aircraft destroyed.
• Swiss SAAB 2000 Berlin, July 2002, encountered severe weather, destination and alternates closed, fuel exhaustion, aircraft destroyed.
• BMI A321, Over Germany, May, 2003, encountered severe weather/ hail, serious damage, aircraft continued for hundreds of kilometres before landing.
• EasyJet B737 Geneva, August, 2003, encountered severe weather/hail, serious damage.
• SAS A330, Helsinki, October, 2003, continued with no holding fuel into low visibility/missed approach at destination, insufficient fuel for alternate; fuel emergency.

None of these flights had the support of a proper operational control/dispatch system.

Many air carriers in Europe do not even track their flights and have no idea where their flights are and don't have a communication system to advise them of hazardous info if they wanted to.

What they need is:

1. A certified(licensed) and trained flight dispatcher/flight operations officer.
2. A reliable, effective ground to air communications system.
3. The necessary tools to suppprt the flight dispatcher such as information systems, and manuals, etc.
4. The regulatory framework necessary to give the flight dispatcher the responsibility and authority to do their job.

If the regulatory authority wants to prevent errors in judgment as well as errors in poor information to crews, then joint repsonsibility between the pilot-in-command and the flight dispatcher should also be applied. This would ensure a human factors double check on both the flight crew and the flight dispatcher. Similar to requiring multiple hydraulic systems and electrical systems on an aircraft. It is a proven, safer system.

Just my thoughts.

kellmark is offline  
Old 8th Aug 2004, 12:48
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It is my opinion that the European system of Operations Control/Dispatch is overdue for an overhaul and a set of standards for training should be enforced across the region.

Both nosig and I have frequently pushed the requirement for the training of Operations staff and dispatchers and I hope that this will become a requirement.

However, I doubt licensing will become a reality, it has been lobbied for on national levels in several European countries, but the bean counters, the airlines and the pilot community at large have resisted both licensing and the concept of join responsibility. I suspect that for the airlines cost is a major issue, to train all of an airlines operations control staff to FAA licence level would run to thousands of pounds/euros. For European flight crews the concept of shared responsibility and its advantages are completely alien and totally misunderstood.


“1/ Does this mean that all staff dealing with ops / dispatch need to be licensed or can it just be the supervisor / DO on duty?”

This is one of the points up for discussion, but it is my understanding that Hapag-Lloyd had a DFS licensed dispatcher on duty as a supervisor at the time of the A310 fuel incident, and this did not prevent the incident.

My belief is that all Operations Control staff should be trained to the same level, the Supervisors should then be trained to manage.


“BMI A321, Over Germany, May, 2003, encountered severe weather/ hail, serious damage, aircraft continued for hundreds of kilometres before landing.
EasyJet B737 Geneva, August, 2003, encountered severe weather/hail, serious damage.”

In both instances it is highly unlikely that an FAA dispatcher could have prevented these incidents, both incidents are the result of freak weather that did not even appear on the aircraft weather radar until it was too late.

“None of these flights had the support of a proper operational control/dispatch system”

If by “proper” you mean they did not have an FAA style dispatch cover, no they did not. All of the airlines involved provide the level of operational control JAR requires, the question should be – is that level of control sufficient?

That said, despite the examples, I won’t argue with points 1 to 4.

As an individual I am pro-recognised training and qualifications for operations and dispatch staff. At present I believe joint responsibility is an unreasonable expectation for the short term, our objective as professionals should be first to have recognised and agreed standards of training and meet them.
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Old 9th Aug 2004, 18:49
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As a licenced dispatcher myself I can assure you that FAA dispatchers have been guiding aircraft around the worst wx for a good number of years now. Big airlines with extensive networks divide the contiguous states into sectors and in each sector the wx radar is monitored continously. That's domestic, internatational doesn't get monitored with such vigilance as the facilities on offer (euroland) don't stack up.
The case for JAA recognition of dispatchers, ops controllers, what ever you want to call them, is compelling. I tried to get you lot going on the subject some months earlier, sadly to no avail.
UKOMA what are you doing about this?? Stop hedging your management bets and start lobbying in earnest for what you all know is right.
Good luck to you all I hope you get what you and above all air safety deserves. There's a few bob in this too so get going now
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Old 12th Aug 2004, 16:59
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I appreciate your comments. They show a strong grounding in experience and knowledge about the issues of ops control/flight dispatch. The following comments are given in acknowledgment and respect of that.

I do have to disagree on a number of issues that you raised, however.

1. Training is good, and helps, but by itself just won't do it. Without certification, authority and communications for flight dispatchers, the European system will remain crippled. Crews will not get the proper information that they need and errors of judgment will continue to be made.

2. Cost is a weak issue. A proper system with Flight dispatchers saves fuel, delays and diversions, not to mention accidents.

3. European flight crews are not much different from flight crews around the world. They all want to be PIC and many are resistant to change. But if a safer system exists then it should be implemented. The passenger's safety is more important than the "culture" of the crew. A proper dispatch system also protects the crews from management pressure.

4. Each individual flight dispatcher needs to be certified, otherwise there is no personal accountability. They might as well not be there, if they cannot take action when needed.

5. On the wx incidents. They were not "freak". They were predictable. Sometimes airborne radar is affected by "attenuation" where one return hides a more severe return behind it. But multiple ground based radar sites usually will pick it up. As FEBA points out, flight dispatchers in the US, Canada, etc do routinely route flights around this type of hazard.

With the BMI incident, not only did the aircraft hit the severe wx/hail, but then the crew continued on for hundreds of kilometres with a badly damaged aircraft, passing by many suitable airports. Not something that I would condone.

6. The Hapag Lloyd situation did have a German certified dispatcher, but this just proves my point about a complete system. He had no authority or responsibility whatsoever to intervene with the flight. In the US an exact parallel happened with an A300 with gear down, and the flight dispatcher worked with the crew, corrected errors that they had made, and the flight landed safely at its destination with reserve fuel. And the crew was thankful for it. But the German PIC is under criminal charges. Again, a proper dispatch system supports the passengers and the flight crew. The Hapag Lloyd pilot did not get the support he needed.

7. What the JAR requires for flight dispatch is basically pathetic. No certification for flight dispatchers, no authority, no communiciations. And yet there have been a significant number of accidents/incidents with fuel exhaustion/emergencies and severe weather hazards. It reminds me of the Concorde situation where that aircraft had a significant number of incidents which showed the vulnerability of the tires/fuel tanks/engines. The ops control/dispatch system in Europe is similarly vulnerable.

I just don't think that European passengers should have to accept a much lower standard of safety.

The Chinese, Emirates, Malaysians, Canadians, and the US have all adopted the higher standard.

I think that the Europeans should at least have what the Chinese have.
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Old 13th Aug 2004, 07:34
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As the closing date for submissions is now two weeks ago, I guess the next move is with EASA.

I have read with interest the opinions, concerns and recommendations of those who have posted on this subject and whilst there is a wide variance on what should be included, broadly there is agreement that some form of regulation/certification is required and that it is long overdue.

Unfortunately 12 Posts, are not a representative sample of industry opinion and therefore of no use as an indication of what was submitted (especially when, like me, the poster has no influence on any carriers submission).

The worst case scenario is that this issue is 'shelved' for the time being. In which case Opsbod will be fighting his battle for better training and standards within Operations Control, with no regulatory stick to beat opponents with (been there got the scars - but it was long enough ago for the wounds to have healed :-).

But assuming it is moved forward, with countries like Germany involved, then there is a good chance that the resulting Regulations and Certification requirement, whilst less than Kellmark believes is required (and I not saying he is wrong), will at least from a UK perspective be a giant leap forward (and only 20 years late).
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Old 13th Aug 2004, 08:26
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You need a larger audience and this thread is ample justification for moving it to another forum. JB007 can you please move this to rumours and news please, it's out grown its pesent location.
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Old 14th Aug 2004, 17:02
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Oh Please…there’s no safety issue here!

OK we have no license, indeed less responsibilities and we don't have to sign our flight plans.

Any Pilot In Command will double check his flight planning, fuel figures, weather and alternates PRIOR to departure and will take off only when he’s happy with everything. There's absolutely no SAFETY ISSUE here.

And if indeed he goes without checking, because he believes his Licensed Dispatcher has done the work properly … then that’s where we have a serious SAFETY ISSUE.

Now, I do agree that we should find a solution in Europe in order to have at least a kind of basic Flight Dispatcher License. Being the one responsible within my company to give proper staff training, I am often loosing valuable time to have our new people up to date on the basics. I would rather spend this time giving training on more specific company procedures. The license would make the staff selection easier, would shorter the training and people would be on their own faster. But, on the other hand, it would be an obvious requirement for the company to offer higher salaries.

And to respond to the poster saying that Chinese flights are safer than Europeans ones … humm … you probably mean that’s because it’s one of the very last remaining countries in the world operating more Boeings than Airbuses ! Just kidding … I know how susceptible you Americans are
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Old 15th Aug 2004, 04:58
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“No safety issue here”. You do indeed have a sense of humour. (Notice the English spelling).

Yes, Pilots should check and double-check their flight plans, fuel figures, weather and alternates prior to departure. 99.99% of them do it properly. .01% do not. Do you want to be on that flight?

You say that these pilots would make a mistake if they had a certified dispatcher because they would rely more on the dispatcher and believe that he/she would do the work properly. That this would then create a safety issue. Let me get this straight. You think that it is less safe to have better qualified people doing preflight planning? I will let that speak for itself.

I have great respect for what pilots do. But we are all human. They do not walk on water, although some of them might think that they do. They can make mistakes. And they will continue to make mistakes, just as we will, as we are all human. And when they make a mistake it can have severe consequences. I have seen highly experienced pilots whom I greatly respected make some of these mistakes. In some cases I was able to help them and prevent an incident or accident. In other cases, they showed me where I was making a mistake, so that was prevented as well. And I appreciated their contribution, as they appreciated mine.

Let’s also not ignore the fact that most of them are under pressure to operate the flights in a deregulated, highly competitive environment. This makes it more difficult for a pilot to refuse a situation which they might not feel comfortable with. Some have been fired for refusing a flight. With a PIC/dispatcher joint responsibility system it takes away most of that pressure as each can back the other in their decision.

What you don’t talk about is perhaps the most serious problem in European ops control/flight dispatch, and that is the lack of in-flight monitoring. Many air carriers in Europe simply don’t track and don’t know where their flights are at a given time and have no one assigned to provide information to the flight crew while they are enroute. And they couldn’t communicate with them if they wanted to, as many don’t have a communication system. This at a time when the European operational situation is more dynamic and more complex than ever. The weather has become more volatile and hazardous, the ATC situation is changing, the flight crews tend to have less experience than in previous times and the security threat is more serious than ever.

It is simply not acceptable to have this situation exist and not call it a safety problem.

You want to shorten the training that is given if there would be a requirement for licensing. That makes sense on its face, but in fact the need for training at each airline is greater with a proper flight dispatch system because the flight dispatcher has much more responsibility. They are much more than simply a flight planner. They are truly a partner with the Pilot-In Command and must have a similar level of knowledge to him/her. But it is this certification and training that creates the bedrock of the system and makes it much safer and more effective. But it is also more efficient as qualified, certified flight dispatchers can flight plan more effectively, save fuel, save delays, diversions and generally provide a much more effective operational decision making process. They are very knowledgeable, and have an excellent grasp of the airline’s and the particular flight’s operational situation.

Regarding the Chinese. They have adopted a full US style system for ops control. In that aspect they are definitely safer than the European ones. Or you could talk to the Malaysians about their Ops Control Center in Kuala Lumpur. It is far superior to the European system. And it was accomplished with the support of a pilot.

As far as Boeing and Airbus is concerned, I think that the Europeans make a great aircraft, and I have no hesitation with flying on them. Note that most of the ops control accidents/incidents in Europe have happened with Airbus aircraft. But that is only because that is what the European carriers were mostly flying. The type of aircraft really had no bearing on it. When aircraft run out fuel, or declare fuel emergencies, or run into hazardous weather, they could be any type.

When it comes to this American-European thing, when someone mentions it, I usually just ignore it. I have many good friends in Europe whom I speak to and visit often. I prefer to remain professional. But those were European passengers who were frightened to death and placed in grave jeopardy on these flights which didn’t make it in safely. Just before the SAAB 2000 of Swiss crashed at Werneuchen, near Berlin in severe weather, the passengers reported that the pilot was screaming to ATC to help him find a place to land as he had only 7 minutes of fuel left “and the passengers all thought that they were going to die”. I just don’t find that humorous. Maybe I can’t take a joke after all.

I am confident that change is coming in Europe. I think it is better if we all support the best possible system we can to achieve a high standard of excellence in operational control/flight dispatch. No flight crew or passenger on any European flight should expect less. That would really make me happy. Then maybe I could take a joke.
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Old 15th Aug 2004, 12:46
  #18 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Europe
Posts: 49
Hello Kellmark

Thanks for your reply.

Just to present myself a little further .. we are running operations dealing with flights going absolutely everywhere. I’ve been organising, and not only flight planning, flights heading to remote places such as Easter Island (IPC) or Anadyr (DYR) in northern Siberia. Those flights are requiring serious flight planning, with suitable alternates (if available) being hours away, weather not easily available (if available) . We even sometime need to have a navigator on board when over flying large non-English speaking ATC areas. You will understand that those are samples of flights that could encounter many potential hazardous issues while airborne.

Do you really think our pilots, and our management, would be ok to have the aircraft taking-off to those destinations without a professional skilful Flight Dispatcher in charge of the Ops control? Of course not, even if not a single of us has a License.

My point, the same as yours indeed, is that a Flight Dispatcher responsible of a flight should know what he’s doing. We both agree on this.

Now, you say that Europeans flights are not as safe as they could be (read: if they had adopted the US system). And here, sorry but I don’t agree.

You take, as an example, the Swiss Saab 2000 BSL-HAM flight that has diverted to Werneuchen Air Base . A short flight (EFT 1.15), with forecasted bad weather upon arrival, that went horribly wrong. I don’t think the final report has yet been published, can’t find it anywhere though, so I won’t argue on who’s to blame. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that all Crossair BSL Dispatchers were holding a FAA Dispatch License. I’ve visited myself their Control Room in late 2001, and was indeed impressed by their equipment and general organisation. I was only a visitor though, and it’s always easy to impress a visitor, but I do remember very well being told that it was a mandatory requirement for Flight Dispatchers to hold the FAA License. It’s obvious here, with a licensed Pilot and a licensed Dispatcher, that
the qualification of those involved is not to be questioned. It is analyse of the information available and the resulting decision made prior and during the flight that is the possible problem. This is called human factor, it depends of each individual involved … taking the good or bad decision. I don’t think you can blame the Europeans here, it could have happened anywhere.

On my side, I would prefer to take another relevant example. A Ryanair 737 approaching his destination on a scheduled flight, I think it was in 2003 and the airport was somewhere in France, and realising that the Tower was closed. It was written in the NOTAM …
Again, a job has not been done properly (an aircraft has departed with no one checking the NOTAM). The Dispatcher has believed that the Captain would check his NOTAM while the captain has assumed the NOTAM were checked by Operations. A dramatic example of a theoretical “double-checking” resulting in a “zero-checking”. Again, not a problem of qualification here … human factor.

The Captain is the one in command, here’s the one who will have to deal with an emergency up there, he’s the one responsible for the life of his passengers. He MUST check himself everything prior to departure, don’t assume …just check.

Now, it’s the company responsibility to make sure that

A/ Pilots and Dispatchers are trained, professionals and competent
B/ Captain and Dispatch have ENOUGH time to do all the checks prior to the flight.

We all know that this “enough time” and “enough staff” is the real problem, not only here but, basically, everywhere. That’s where something should be done asap.
Airlines can’t reduce “maintenance costs”, but they can indeed reduce “manpower” costs by offering lower salaries and hiring less people. Less people = more work, not good at all in a stressful environment.

When a fully qualified Dispatcher or a fully qualified Pilot is tired, and starts to assume rather than check, then we indeed have a safety issue. And I am not that sure that the “US Style system” would be the right answer to this problem …
Celestar is offline  
Old 17th Aug 2004, 05:53
  #19 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Miami, Florida, USA
Posts: 32
Hello Celestar;

Excellent comments.

It sounds like you have a professional operation, especially with the type of operations that you are conducting. I respect that you disagree with me. We can agree to disagree.

When you send those flights to Easter Island and to Anadyr, is there always someone legally responsible to provide those flights with critical changes in operational information? Is there a separate communication system with ops control/dispatch over the entire route of the flight?

One of my colleagues was speaking to a Captain for an airline that has similar long range operations that operates under similar rules that I believe your airline does. He asked them how they found out about changes enroute? He replied that they found out when they got there. That is the crux of the problem.

You make some interesting comments about the Swiss operation and the Ryanair incident. They are both interesting and I would like to respond about them.

The Swiss may have certified dispatchers, who do flight planning, but the flight from Basel to Hamburg had no flight monitoring or flight watch system. ATC vectored the flight right into the front side of the severe weather that day and the crew wound up in that severe weather with no available airports to land at as they diverted towards Berlin, which also closed. The aircraft did not have ACARS/communications capability. Just because a flight is within Europe and is less distance or time than long haul flights does not mean it should have less support.

In the US, for example, every scheduled flight with more than 9 seats is required to have a flight dispatch system with flight monitoring/communications and joint responsibility between the PIC and the dispatcher. It could be 10 minutes flight time or ten hours and that requirement applies. This also ensures that flights are routed around severe weather routinely. US flight dispatchers also have excellent tools, such as the Aircraft Situation Display, which is near real time track info from ATC, to see where their aircraft are, and the weather, airports, other flights ,etc are also superimposed on the display. As far as I know, this is not used in Europe except where some dispatchers are able to access US sites for some info on their flights. What I often find with European carriers is that they usually give more support to “long haul” flights but that intra-European flights are often given very little support at all.

An interesting issue is that if the Swiss dispatchers have FAA licenses, then the question is what is their legal responsibility? As I recall, the Swiss themselves have a flight dispatcher license. An FAA license in Switzerland provides a knowledge qualification of some value, but it is not a legal qualification recognized in Europe or Switzerland. And the problem is that JAR-OPS does not require any license/certificate. That is what this discussion is all about. So the fact that the Swiss may have FAA licenses doesn’t help the operation when it comes to legal responsibility or authority. And if they have a Swiss license, then they still have no authority or responsibility under JAR-OPS.

If there had been a Swiss dispatcher with legal authority and responsibility and communications, they could have guided the flight, supported it with critical information, or even prevented it from operating and ensured that it never got into the situation that it wound up in.

Regarding the Ryanair incident with the Notams, this is also interesting. Only the pilot is legally responsible to check them, as there is no license or certification in the UK for flight dispatchers. The company can of course assign the task to a flight dispatcher but in effect it is the pilot who is legally responsible to the national authority. This means that, as you point out, the flight dispatcher does not sign anything, as they are not responsible for anything. Therein lies the problem. I can tell you that when someone is certificated/licensed and has to sign their name to an official document, they take a very different view of their responsibility and the possible ramifications if they make an error.

I understand what you are saying about the fact that both the PIC and the dispatcher missed that Notam. This could happen even under a joint system, but it is much less likely. There was a human factors study done at Ohio State University regarding this very issue. There were several scenarios, one with severe weather/thunderstorm avoidance and one with an MEL problem. The testing was done in three ways to measure results: 1, with just the pilot making decisions, 2, with the just the flight dispatcher making decisions, and 3, with both of them making decisions together. Neither of the ones with just the pilot or dispatcher making their own decisions was nearly as effective as the one where they both made decisions together. The best and safest results by far were with a joint responsibility/decision system.

Think of it like a three-legged stool. One leg is the PIC, another is the ATC system and the 3rd is Flight Dispatch. If there are only 2 legs, then it simply cannot be as safe.

I think of it in the way everything else in aviation is done. That of redundancy. Transports must have multiple engines, multiple systems and performance margins for a very important reason. Redundancy. If one engine fails, as we know it eventually must, then there are one or more additional ones to keep the aircraft in the air. If there is a hydraulic or electrical failure, then there are multiple backups for those as well. It is called a fail-safe system, where no one failure is allowed to cause an accident. Yet, in operational control systems that do not have flight monitoring and joint responsibility, that is not the case. We know from studies and long experience, that a joint responsibility flight dispatch system with flight watch/flight monitoring definitely provides that fail-safe redundancy to operational control. Flight crews get better information, and errors in judgment are minimized. It doesn’t mean that it is perfect. It is possible, as you point out for both the PIC and the flight dispatcher to miss something. But it is also known that the two together are safer when they work together as a professional team than when they are on their own.

You mentioned the workload issue. That is a continuing concern. Airlines typically will staff for the “clear weather” day. There have been cases in the US where FAA inspectors would “encourage” the airline to make an adjustment when they saw that there was a workload problem. Duty rigs also help to lessen fatigue issues, but these are usually minimal in their effect. When workload is still a problem, however, flight dispatchers may have to make a choice between prioritizing the flight in the air versus the flight on the ground, and delays could result. I think that this will always be a problem, especially in a deregulated environment with highly competitive pressures. We agree on this.

Having said this, whether we agree or not, I think that this thread is a valuable dialogue. Your comments are very well presented.

What I would suggest is that there is an opportunity to continue this dialogue in person in October. There will be a meeting of EUFALDA, the European Federation of Airline Dispatcher's Associations, in Austria on October 19-21. Their web site is at www.eufalda.org. You can check there for information on the meeting. I think that you and other professionals in who are interested in recent developments in operational control/flight dispatch and want to participate would find it valuable to attend.


kellmark is offline  
Old 19th Aug 2004, 15:55
  #20 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: EMA
Age: 50
Posts: 116
Currently the European environment would not support an FAA style system.

We currently use ASD to track our aircraft within the UK region, but to date no other ECAC ATC authority has agreed to supply its data for display. Our system runs from a U.S. site using NATS data shared with the FAA and is invaluable in poor weather and for short-range flight tracking. Ironically for deliveries we can track an aircraft from departure in Seattle to landing at base here in the U.K., regrettably aircraft just past the north coast of France simply disappear.

Weather radar is another issue, we currently use between 6 and 8 sites for weather tracking in Europe, none of these is a live feed, most being at least an hour out of date.

I agree that by doubling the number of responsible individuals involved we could reduce the chances of an accident/serious incident. Unfortunately I suspect this is unlikely to happen.
opsbod is offline  

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