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Reaching new heights on the ground

When aspiring commercial pilot Travis Jones saw an advertisement on social media for Piedmont’s Dispatch Trainee Program, he saw it as an opportunity to learn more about airline operations while continuing to build his flight time. Working as a flight dispatcher in Piedmont’s Operations Control Center (OCC) in Salisbury, Maryland meant that he could become more familiar with the industry by working for a regional airline near his hometown.

Growing up in Georgetown, Delaware, Travis began flying at age 15. “Piedmont is a regional carrier for the world’s largest airline and their headquarters is a short drive from where I live,” shares Travis. “Working as a dispatcher at Piedmont’s OCC meant I wouldn’t have to relocate to a big city to work in commercial aviation and there would be opportunities for further career advancement within the company.”

Travis obtained his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and his instrument rating from Delaware State University. After graduation, he attended ATP Flight School in Raleigh, North Carolina where he obtained his commercial, multi and commercial single engine ratings. When Travis learned about the Dispatch Trainee Program opportunity, he admits he only had a vague idea of what a flight dispatcher does.

“I wanted to work in aviation every day while I continued to build flight time, so I decided to apply,” shares Travis. He was selected to join a class of 12 and began six weeks of dispatch certification school on March 6, 2023. As part of the trainee program, Jeppesen Academy sent an instructor from their main campus to teach the class in Salisbury, so Travis didn’t have to attend training away from home. Next, Travis completed four weeks of ground school and then on-the-job training for two weeks sitting with a seasoned dispatcher.

“Learning to become a dispatcher was a challenge,” he looks back. “It’s like drinking water from a fire hose but the amount of knowledge and experience you gain is incredible.” As a dispatcher, Travis was responsible for flight operations from the ground and worked with pilots discussing weather and issues they were facing in the air. “As an aspiring airline pilot, being a resource to pilots is helping me learn about flight operations. What I learned as a dispatcher will only help me more when I become a pilot.”

After dispatching for seven months, a Dispatch Coordinator position opened, and Travis was interested in growing within the department. A Dispatch Coordinator assists the Dispatch Supervisor and is available to answer questions from dispatchers and offer assistance when needed. “I was seeking more challenging situations to dig in and solve; this role could provide that,” shares Travis. “Plus, it meant career progression.” As a Dispatch Coordinator, Travis works four 11-hour days with four days off.

In his new role, he faces different challenges every day and enjoys helping his fellow dispatchers. “As a coordinator, you look at the entire operation, not just the flights that you are responsible for like a dispatcher does. I look at crew issues and maintenance issues to figure out a solution. I work with stations to coordinate aircraft swaps and changes.”

As Travis continues to gain knowledge of the airline operation on the ground, his eye is still on the prize. “When I reach 500 flight hours, I plan to apply to become a Piedmont Cadet and eventually fly for Piedmont as a first officer,” shares Travis. “In the meantime, I want to learn as much as I can in Dispatch.”

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