FAA Policy Allowing Airline Dispatcher Remote Work Under Fire

FAA Policy Allowing Airline Dispatcher Remote Work Under Fire
Due to the pandemic, the FAA granted a percentage of dispatchers, including those at SkyWest and Republic Airways, the ability to work remotely in 2020. [Photo courtesy of Republic Airways]

Lawmakers want the FAA to explain why it has continued to allow certain airlines to use a pandemic provision that allows their dispatchers to work remotely. Representatives Peter DeFazio, who is in charge of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rick Larsen, who is in charge of the House Aviation Subcommittee, wrote to acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen on Tuesday to ask for more information.

"We are writing to express our deep concern about the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) decision to allow SkyWest Airlines and Republic Airways to keep the function of alternate aircraft dispatch centers, allowing dispatchers to go remotely despite potential safety risks," the letter said.

Federal aviation regulations require dispatchers to adhere to strict guidelines. According to FAR 121.533, "the pilot in command and the aircraft dispatcher are jointly responsible for the preflight planning, delay, and dispatch release of a flight in compliance with this chapter and operations specifications." It also states that dispatchers are responsible for flight monitoring, issuing necessary information for the safety of the flight, and canceling or re-dispatching a flight if they determine the flight cannot run or keep running safely as planned or released.

Prior to the pandemic, dispatchers typically worked inwards in operational command centers that provided a physically and otherwise secure workplace. Given the large amount of information passed on to aircrews, this is also a method of preventing cyber threats.

Due to the pandemic, the FAA granted a percentage of dispatchers, including those at SkyWest and Republic Airways, the ability to work remotely in 2020. According to the agreement, no more than twenty percent of an airline's second dispatchers were to operate from home, and they were only allowed to do so for a half-dozen months.

The letter says that the FAA later changed the rule to let up to 60% of dispatchers on any shift work from home until March 2023.

The lawmakers asked right away why they were still using that policy spell when "many federal pandemic policies are ending or being scaled back."

More bluntly, DeFazio and Larsen stated, "The decision to allow dispatchers to run from home, into potentially hazardous weather, raises significant safety concerns that the FAA must address." Also, they seem worried that the FAA might tell them to do their best to make sure that remote dispatchers are being watched properly.

"Concerns are also raised by the FAA's secrecy overreliance on airlines' self-reporting of operating weather," the alphabetic character said. It continues, "Inspections of a dispatcher's second residence are conducted nearly daily, as are checks for potential distractions or rubber hazards that may be missed by the airlines or the FAA."

The letter of the alphabet refers to an incident that occurred on May 5 of this year when Republic Airlines pilots were unable to reach a dispatcher working remotely while they were in a holding pattern for nearly xx minutes due to bad weather and needed to design a diversion. Separately, the letter of the alphabet showed that an on-site dispatcher was limited to her mail service for 12 hours, which was 2 hours longer than her duty day. This was because a relief dispatcher who was working from home couldn't access the companionship's dispatch systems because of cyberspace problems.

Looking ahead, the representatives have requested that the FAA clarify its policies governing remote dispatchers by December 12, in addition to providing insight into the nature of the run being performed. They, too, want to know whether the FAA intends to make emergency authorizations permanent.

Dolph Nelson

Science and Technology enthusiast, obsessed with organic vegetables. He is intelligent and careful, but can also be very lazy and a bit grumpy. forcescast.com

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