Dispatcher or Scheduler: What’s the Difference?

 - March 30, 2007, 11:05 AM

Kristi Ivey is the flight operations supervisor at the Home Depot Aviation Department at Fulton County Airport in Atlanta. She is also a licensed dispatcher. Working for her are two schedulers and four administrators. She is also the vice chair of the NBAA schedulers & dispatchers committee.

“We take care of everything, and then we put out the fires,” said Ivey, who has been in the Home Depot flight department for six years.

While there is no requirement that the dispatcher for a Part 91 flight department be FAA licensed, virtually every large flight department at Fulton County has at least one licensed dispatcher on its staff. These include Coca-Cola and BellSouth.

The difference, she explained, is that, unlike a scheduler, a dispatcher is licensed by the FAA after successfully completing a demanding course of study and is typically responsible for flight planning and weather. “That person’s signature and license number is on every flight plan,” noted Ivey. In the business aviation world, the dispatcher might also handle many jobs typically done by a scheduler, including assignment of aircraft and crews, arrangement of catering and ground transportation and scheduling fuel service and en route ground handling.

At Home Depot, Ivey supervises the work of two schedulers, handles crew assignments and reports directly to the senior director of flight operations. But she noted that with regard to corporate structure, this is not necessarily typical of a Part 91 flight department, or of a Part 135 charter operation. “Every flight department or charter operation has developed procedures that best meet its own requirements.” Some have only a scheduler, and flight planning and weather are done by the pilots. At others, a single dispatcher is expected to handle everything.

A typical Home Depot trip request is first examined to determine if it falls within company guidelines. If it meets those requirements, a trip information form is sent by e-mail from the director of flight operations to the individual’s executive assistant. Based on the details provided, Ivey’s office begins setting up the trip.

Her department makes use of Lotus Notes for e-mail forms and professional flight management (PFM) software as “a primary scheduling tool.” Through PFM, she added, “we use RLM Software’s FlightView for flight tracking.”

At Home Depot, the job is somewhat complicated by a mix of aircraft that includes an ultra-long-range Global Express, two Falcon 900s and a Falcon 50EX. A second Falcon 50EX is due to join the fleet this summer. Ivey and her staff know the capabilities of each aircraft and make assignments accordingly.