Since I was a young girl and I took my first airplane flight, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life associated with this wonderful world of flying machines. My immediate action after this flight was to decide I would be a professional pilot. After all, in my young mind that was the only job that would let me be around airplanes and airports all day. Since then, I have pushed on with single-mindedness towards earning my flight ratings. First private, then instrument, now I am building hours towards taking my commercial pilot checkride.
However, he more that I dig deep into the world of professional flight, the more I see that it is certainly not just the pilots that play an important role. In reality, they play just as important of a role of any of the hundreds of other personnel that run airports and flight operations daily. These jobs are not given the "rock star" persona that the general public tends to give pilots, and I believe that is a terrible misunderstanding.
In my Crew Resource Management class at my flight university we have been discussing a lot about what exactly the definition of "crew" is. Is it just pilot flying and pilot monitoring? Is it also ATC? If ATC is included, wouldn’t maintenance and dispatch also make the cut? A commercial flight operation could not possibly happen without the combined efforts of all of these resources.
I want to give a brief overview of what I consider to be five of the most important "crew" resources for every commercial flight. I would also like to encourage every young aviator out there to take a step back and appreciate all of the supporting people that work to make these operations happen. They are all "rock stars" in their own right and work very hard to keep the skies safe and efficient.
Air Traffic Controller
Picture this scenario: It is a sunny and beautiful day at a medium-sized airport that supports both commercial and general aviation traffic. Everyone suddenly gets the urge to stretch their wings and spend a few hours in the air. At the same time, routine commercial flights are coming and going at breakneck speed to accommodate travelers. As a controller, it is your job to perfectly orchestrate the dozens of aircraft that are in your airspace at any given moment. You also have to take into consideration the type, speed, altitude, and intention of each plane. Air traffic controllers have an extremely difficult job, that when done well is not noticed.
A dispatcher is in charge of organizing a large portion of the logistical information for a flight. In the U.S. and Canada they also share legal responsibility for any aircraft they are assigned with the pilot in command. Dispatchers are trained to ATP standards, and must have extensive knowledge of meteorology and aviation regulations in general. A dispatcher typically handles between 10 and 20 aircraft at the same time, and must monitor each of them to ensure safe flight operations.
Aircraft Maintenance Worker
If aircraft were not maintained to the high standard that they are today, there would be twice as many accidents happening during daily flight operations. Aircraft maintenance technicians are highly skilled in mechanics, computer systems, and a whole host of other practical expertise. They spend weeks memorizing the complex systems of each aircraft that they work on. They are not afraid to get dirty, and keep thousands of aircraft flying every day.
With all of these moving parts, there has to be some sort of management in place to assure that everything is running smoothly. That is where the managers, administrators, HR workers or "higher-ups" come into play. They know the business side of aviation, and often incorporate their personal aviation knowledge into their managerial methods. These are the people that help to keep the business going when things get tough.
No list of important aviation jobs would be complete without mention of flight attendants. These hard working crewmembers deal directly with the general public for hours every day. They travel the world just as much as the pilots do, and have to be wise and patient when handling any issues caused by passengers onboard. They must be friendly but assertive, constantly holding a professional demeanor. The life of a flight attendance is not glamorous, but it sure can be fun.
This list does not scratch the surface of all the types of jobs available in the aviation industry. I am sure that if you thought of almost any job, there is an equivalent job in the aviation industry. Keep an open mind when looking towards your future career endeavors, and always do what you love! We have a great list of job search resources available on the GlobalAir.com Aviation Directory.