Many do not realize the importance and effort that goes into making an airline run smoothly. Airline dispatchers work behind the scenes to keep flights running and on time, essentially running the airlines from the operational point of view. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University provides two of the 44 FAA-approved airline dispatcher training programs nationwide. The current program for the Prescott campus, AS 410, began in 2007 with Professor Randy Rehbach.

The program prepares students for an FAA certification and consists of approximately seven core classes that are well integrated into the Aeronautical Science and Aeronautics programs. The Applied Meteorology degree program also has a track which integrates the dispatcher program. The seven courses total up to 21 credits, but for Aeronautical Science and Aeronautics students, about half of these classes are already taken as part of their major degree program.

Aeronautical Science and Aeronautics students are recommended to take the airline dispatch program mainly due to the fact that their core classes are almost the same as the airline dispatcher core classes. Not only is it much easier for these students, but Professor Rehbach says it makes “another great tool for your toolbag” and allows the opportunity to stand out among other applicants. It is also a great alternative to flying when not flying, in addition to keeping critical planning and decision making skills honed.

Though small, the airline dispatch program is highly successful. A number of graduates from this program were hired straight into major airlines such as Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. Many others found it quite beneficial to have an airline dispatch certificate under their belt. James Mews, an Aeronautical Science student, finds that having an airline dispatch certification would allow him to “be a better pilot, because then everything that I learned such as performance and weight and balance would be reinforced and better retained.” This program is a great resumé builder and “is a capstone to the other courses.”

The airline dispatch program prepares students for two FAA tests, the written and practical exam. After passing the written exam, students will receive a statement of graduation from the airline dispatch program allowing them to take the practical test. The written exam is taken from the same test bank as the airline transport pilot test bank. The practical test will consist of knowledge and skills tests, such as flight planning and regulations. Due to the fact that students cannot hold a certificate until the age of 23, most students will receive a Letter of Aeronautical Competence stating that they have met all requirements besides the age requirement.

Airlines are required by FAA regulations to utilize dispatchers as an element of operational control. These dispatchers have “joint authority” with the pilot-in-command over the decisions for flights, as a means of checks and balances. For scheduled air carriers, the daily functions of an airline dispatcher can range from flight planning, analyzing weather, air traffic conditions, upholding company requirements, coordinating with customer service, staffing, pilots, and many other tasks that keep ease the load off of pilots. Everything that dispatchers do is of great importance to a smoothly run airline, Professor Rehbach exemplifies that “if we didn’t have any people on the ground who were basically running the whole show… If you just had a group of pilots and flight attendants, and figuratively threw them the keys then told them to fly for four days, how long would it be before the whole system fell apart?” This program provides talented dispatchers competence in conducting the complex system that allows millions to get to their destinations every year.

To further enhance the flight dispatch experience, Professor Rehbach is looking “to include training on a professional grade flight planning system typical in the air carrier and corporate environment [and] may propose a lab component to incorporate this training.” He aims to improve the program to further prepare students for the workforce. This program, though relatively young, seems to be growing to bring benefits to students and the school.

Professor Randall Rehbach, the founder of the program, is an Assistant Professor in the College of Aviation’s Air Science department with plenty of experience in his field. He served in the Air Force as a Crew Chief of F-16s and A-10s, where he was introduced to Embry-Riddle at Luke Air Force Base. After the Air Force, Professor Rehbach flight instructed then flew corporate for approximately six years. He was acquainted with operational control of an airline due to a medical glitch. Professor Rehbach taught at Embry-Riddle from 1992 to 1998 before he joined National Airlines as a Manager and Director of Flight Control. After National Airlines, he went to America West as a System Operations and Control Manager which he called “daily crisis management.” In 2005, Professor Rehbach came back to Embry-Riddle and created the FAA-approved airline dispatch program.

Interested parties can contact Professor Rehbach at [rehbachr@erau.edu].

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