“That’s our No. 1 concern in expressing this to the membership — you’re putting yourself on an island,” he said. “That license in your back pocket, that’s you. When something goes flawed, you’re the one which’s in front of an administrative law judge, you’re the one which’s going to jail, you’re the one which lives with the results.”
In a letter to the F.A.A. this summer, Mr. Peterson provided what he said were two examples that showed how distant dispatching can undermine safety. In a single, which he said occurred in May, a Republic pilot couldn’t reach an assigned dispatcher for half-hour while the pilot was stuck flying over Albany, N.Y., due to bad weather. In one other, a dispatcher at Republic’s operations center worked well beyond the F.A.A.-mandated maximum 10-hour shift since the dispatcher’s alternative was having trouble connecting to the web.
Billy Nolen, the acting F.A.A. administrator, responded in an Aug. 31 letter, saying that the agency had investigated those concerns and located that “Republic complied with regulatory requirements for operational control.” Mr. Nolen also said that the agency had reviewed drug and alcohol testing records for each airlines since 2020 and will not find evidence to support the union’s claim that distant dispatchers were being excluded from testing.
Mr. Peterson called that response “nothing greater than damage control.”
Since 2018, the F.A.A. has required all airlines to keep up a security management system, a comprehensive set of procedures to watch and reply to safety risks, the agency said. It plans to revisit the distant work authorization for each airlines early this winter.
Like many roles in aviation, dispatching is very regulated. Anyone enthusiastic about the career must take at the least 200 hours of instruction and pass an F.A.A. exam. Some turn into certified as a part of a four-year college education in aviation, while others achieve this after a couple of weeks or months of dedicated instruction at a personal school.
“I just heard someone over the summer describe the dispatcher in this fashion I loved: The dispatcher is the pilot who doesn’t actually fly, they’re the mechanic who doesn’t actually fix the plane, they usually’re the operations scheduler who doesn’t actually do this a part of the job,” said Brian Strzempkowski, the interim director of the middle for aviation studies at Ohio State University. “They need to know all of the little different pieces and parts concerning the whole operation.”