The Difference Between an Aircraft Dispatcher and an Air Traffic Controller

Most people outside the aviation industry will equate the terms air traffic controller with aircraft dispatcher and believe them to be synonymous. Even when reporting news stories on aircraft incidents, anchors will mistakenly refer to an aircraft dispatcher when they are actually referring to the air traffic controller. The terms and the duties of each can certainly resemble each other, but there is a significant difference between the two. If you’re hoping to enter into the industry, it helps being able to differentiate between the two.

You will often hear about the air traffic controller if you look at reports of aircraft incidents. This is because it is their job to keep aircraft safe in flight. They coordinate directly with them via radio or radar contact and are often located in airport towers, radar rooms, or on the ground. The air traffic controllers are also responsible for directing the movement of the planes and ensuring each plane is a safe distance apart from another. They can provide current weather stats and are trained to handle unexpected events.

The role of an aircraft dispatcher may sound similar but it is significantly different. Their main responsibility is to take care of the pre planning process for each flight. Their job is to review the  plane’s crew, monitor the plane in-flight, and focus on maximizing efficiency. This job requires extensive research to create the flight plan, which should include details like the flight’s planned route, weather, airports, altitudes, aircraft weight, and other variables. The aircraft dispatcher must also take fuel into account and ensure that there is enough fuel for an aircraft’s current and next flight. 


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