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Airplane Dispatchers


Commercial air service took off slowly in the United States. The first airmail flight occurred in 1911. The first passenger air service was organized in 1914, providing air transportation from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Florida, but this service lasted only six months. In 1917, however, the U.S. Post Office began its first airmail service. In 1925, the Kelly Air Mail Act turned over the airmail routes to 12 private contractors. This formed the basis of the commercial airline industry in the United States.

The airline industry developed rapidly in the years leading up to World War II. The Air Commerce Act of 1926 introduced licensing requirements for pilots and airlines and created a network of defined airways. Improvements in airplane design resulted in larger, more comfortable airplanes, and the numbers of passengers reached into the millions. By 1933, the United States boasted the busiest airports in the world.

These developments created a need for people to organize and guide the increasing numbers of flights operated by the airlines. During the early days of aviation, the airplane dispatcher served in a number of capacities, including that of station manager, meteorologist, radio operator, and even mechanic. Often pilots were pressed into service as dispatchers because of their knowledge of weather and of the needs of flight crews. As the airline industry grew, these tasks became specialized. The first federal air traffic control center was opened in 1936. In 1938, federal licensing requirements were established for the airline's own dispatchers. Soon dispatchers were located all over the country.

Since that time, the work of dispatchers has become more involved and complicated, and the airline industry has relied on them extensively to make a major contribution to the safety of commercial air travel. Advancements in technology have eased parts of the airplane dispatcher's job and have also allowed the airlines to consolidate their remote dispatch offices to a smaller number of centrally located offices.