Emergencies at 30,000 feet
I enjoyed your article “Is There a Doctor on Board? No? Odds Are Still in Your Favor,” Travel Insider, June 11]. I think it did a fairly accurate job of describing what happens when there is a serious medical issue on board a commercial flight.
However, you neglected to mention the key role of the flight dispatcher, a licensed FAA individual who shares responsibility for every commercial flight and is on staff at every commercial airline. As president of the Professional Airline Flight Control Assn. (the union that represents the dispatchers at United), I wanted to mention a few things.
Communications to and from the doctors and the aircraft are coordinated through dispatchers. Typically, the flight-planning role you mention in your article is done by dispatchers, who also consider other issues, such as available medical help on the ground, weather and the weight of the aircraft before recommending a diversion option.
The dispatcher provides an invaluable service to the flying public, especially when it comes to irregular operations like medical emergencies.