Teamwork is absolutely essential in establishing a safe operating environment in all facets of aviation – and while often overlooked, flight dispatch teams certainly play a pivotal role. Here’s an example that illustrates just how close team interactions can create a positive result and work to establish a more cohesive, safer operating environment.
And while safety was never an essential issue in this particular example, there is no way of telling what might have happened had a solution not been found – the final result had a positive effect on the passengers.
“I was working as an aircraft dispatcher for a regional airline in the late ’90s and I was dispatching in the Northeast U.S. on this particular day. Weather was going to be an issue as a snowstorm was in progress.
“I was handling a series of flights, one of which had the destination of Bedford, MA (KBED). This particular flight had radioed into System Control that they had been placed into a hold with an EFC that was longer than their hold fuel would allow. Their alternate was Boston Logan (KBOS). As a diversion seemed likely, a check of weather at KBOS was done. It showed that it had just dropped to below minimums. The search for another airport to divert to was then commenced.
“While searching for options, I decided to take a look at the KBED weather. The runway in use was 11. Runway 5/23 was not available. Minimums for runway 11 were 3/4-mile visibility and 400-foot ceiling. Reported weather was 1/2-mile visibility and 200-foot ceiling. I recalled that runway 29 had lower minimums. In checking, I confirmed that runway 29 minimums were 1/2-mile visibility and 200-foot ceiling. I checked the winds and they were essentially calm. This was a bit odd as it was snowing. I reviewed all NOTAMS and could not find any that referred to runway 29.
“I radioed the aircraft and spoke to the crew. We discussed the option of requesting runway 29 vs. 11 as the winds and NOTAMS were not a factor. Weather was at minimums but legal for the approach. The crew told me that they would ‘look at it’ and get back to me. In the meantime, I continued to search for an alternative diversionary airport.
“About 15 minutes after my conversation with the crew I received a phone call from the PIC. He told me they were on the ground and thanked me for thinking of a solution. He admitted he and the SIC had not thought of this option and were preparing to divert “somewhere.”
This example perfectly illustrates why safety is paramount at all levels – and it clearly underscores the role flight dispatch teams have in creating a safe operating environment.