In the last article I delved into the need for food safety training, following on from that, I wanted to give serious thought to the issue of proper safety and emergency procedures training. As you may well be aware commercial flight attendants go through rigorous safety training it can take many weeks before they are allowed undertake any form of flying duty. They are then the proud recipient of a cabin crew license, allowing them to discharge their duties, at least until their annual recurrent training is due.
In private aviation the need for training is even more urgent, especially with the type of aircraft that carry only one Flight Attendant, it is a huge responsibility for any individual. Given the urgency you would think the standards of training would be much higher? Actually it is quite the opposite, safety training used to be a very grey area, in fact there is no requirement for a safety trained cabin crew member on a privately operated aircraft of 19 seats or less. You may question how that is possible? Well if you consider some smaller aircraft types are certified to carry up to 10 passengers and are definitely not built for a third crew member, then you get the picture.
Thankfully many companies have a very good safety culture, by developing their own in house training programs or by using approved training providers. Some operators however have gotten around this by having cabin servers or hostesses who have a minimum of training if any; on the paperwork they are considered passengers. They essentially are there for service, which is fine until there is an emergency that they are not trained equipped to deal with. Some aircraft owners also utilise their own personal staff on-board and rely on the pilots for the safety aspect. What if the pilots were incapacitated during an emergency or as is likely trying to deal with the situation then what?
A sobering incident in 2005 in Teterboro’ NYC demonstrated precisely this point. A Challenger aircraft failed to take off and skidded off the end of the runway, traversed a road and crashed in to a clothing warehouse opposite. The flight attendant or server as she was called was not trained and was hired just for that particular trip with no safety training, or familiarisation on the aircraft. According to the investigation after, the flight attendant panicked, as she could not open the forward entry door. The passengers were also badly cut as she had not cleared the glasses and plates in for take off. They were very lucky to live to tell the tale, the implications could have been disastrous.
The bottom line is whoever works on-board the aircraft, flight attendants, pilots or personal staff should should have some form of safety training. Thankfully this year the private aviation industry in the EU is going to be subject to major regulation enforcement EASA Part NCC. This requires private aircraft operators to structure themselves with similar standards to commercial aircraft operators for crew training, operations, safety management systems and personnel. They must also be able do demonstrate compliance with the regulations. Whilst there is a lot of grumbling about it anything that improves safety and ultimately could contribute to saving lives in an emergency gets a big yes from me.