Training plays an important part in ensuring the safety of cabin operations. Some aspects are becoming increasingly important in cabin safety training, including time management in aircraft turnarounds, the handling of unruly passengers, suspected infectious diseases, and the role of simulation devices.
When starting their career all cabin crew members need a bit of time to get familiar with aircraft, their procedures and the pace that is needed during turnarounds. Given the trend for ever shorter aircraft turnarounds, there is a specific set of skills that cabin crews are required to develop through training.
According to Loreta Krupenkiniene, head of cabin crew and Safety Training at BAA Training, shortly after beginning their career they must learn that teamwork, the ability to handle pressure, quick thinking and common sense are vital skills in their job.
“In order to fit into the turnaround time, crew must know the theory very well, as it allows them to coordinate their actions properly, and to ensure they don’t get lost when performing a number of tasks in a short period of time. That is the reason why during cabin crew training, trainees get familiar not only with turnaround procedures, but also with how to follow safety and security procedures,” she says.
Time management has always been a required skill for cabin crew members.
“This skill is even more important when the flight operation provides frequent stops during a flight day, referred to as ‘quick turns’. The cabin crew member must be prepared for the ebb and flow of passengers, while maintaining the cabin’s amenities, as well as the dietary requirements of those on board. Guidance on these necessary skills is a key element of the cabin crew training available at FlightSafety,” says Louisa Fisher, programme manager for Flight Safety International’s cabin safety programmes.
Soft skill training is an important part of both initial training for future flight attendants, and recurrent training sessions for cabin staff.
“In general, one can say that intercultural communication skills, attentiveness – towards both flight attendants and passengers – and being a good team player are crucial in this job. Furthermore, workload and time management abilities are major things we consider when it comes to soft skills training,” says Ola Hansson, CEO and managing director of Lufthansa Aviation Training.
“Within the initial course, our trainees first learn basic facts about soft skills during a one-day online based training session. In addition to theoretical training, they also have a full day of practical soft skills training, held by a social scientist.
“During this training, we mainly focus on self-management skills, teaching them about stress limits and the personal consequences of stress. We also familiarise them with stress coping techniques, as working as a flight attendant can be very demanding at times.”
During crew resource management (CRM) training sessions, special attention is paid to the fact that crew members’ workloads are steadily increasing.
“We therefore teach stress and time management strategies,” says Hansson. “We also have a ‘mental preparation’ module within our training, where the trainees learn how to mentally prepare for the flight and any stressful situations that may occur. This includes reasonable communication under time pressure and in stressful situations, with passengers and within the team.”
Dealing with difficult passengers
There have been important developments in the handling of unruly passengers in recent years and it is an important part of cabin safety training.
“Lately, airlines have been paying greater attention not only to teaching crew how to handle unruly passengers, including self-defence lessons within training to ensure they can defend themselves if there is a physical threat to their safety. There are also procedures included in airline manuals on how to handle these kinds of passengers,” says Krupenkiniene.
“The most important thing in all situations is prevention. This is the first thing that all cabin crews learn during training. Initially, cabin crews should attempt to calm the passenger down, find a way to deal with them peacefully, and, if that does not work, then the cabin crew has the right to call the police upon arrival, to ask for help from other passengers, or, if needed, even to restrain the unruly passenger.”
Cabin crew members are trained in awareness techniques to ensure the earliest possible recognition of any situation that may become a safety concern.
“In the case of an unruly passenger, the first action is to inform the cockpit the moment that the passenger begins to show any signs of behaviour that may become dangerous. If this behaviour escalates then there may be a need to involve other passengers in controlling the disruptive individual. Most flight operations have specific policies to address this type of situation,” says Fisher.
Suspected infectious diseases
Another cabin safety issue that is increasingly in focus, is that of suspected infectious diseases on board. With so many people flying from across the globe, crew should be prepared for a variety of situations.
“Cabin crew members are proficient in handling basic medical situations by utilising the equipment available on board the aircraft. This element of their training programme, which is usually covered by a health safety company such as MedAire, includes elements of travel health safety, disease prevention and blood borne pathogen training. Specific training in food handling safety is also a critical element for cabin crew members,” says Fisher.
“Cabin crews need to be vigilant and have common sense. As there are more and more people flying, there is a bigger possibility that infectious disease will reach the aircraft. There is a big possibility that new regulations will be released soon, meaning airlines will be required to include instructions in their manuals on how to handle these situations,” says Krupenkiniene.
“As of today, cabin crews are being taught how to recognise passengers who may be infected before they enter the aircraft. If a passenger with an infectious disease is already on board, cabin crews will follow procedures to try to get the infected passenger isolated from everyone else, and to use protective measures – like a respirator or gloves – when in contact with such passengers, in order to avoid contamination.”
A defining component of cabin safety training is the increasingly prominent role of simulations.
“Similar to pilot training, scenario training for cabin crew members is one of the most effective tools for developing and maintaining the correct and efficient responses needed in an emergency situation.
“Regulatory agencies require the initial and recurrent ‘hands-on’ operation of the aircraft exits, either on the aircraft or on an approved training device. Realistic cabin training, like realistic flight training, provides the most effective training,” says Fisher.
“FlightSafety utilises FAA-approved overwing exits on the cabin trainers, and most employ LED screens on the cabin windows to provide a realistic view of the emergency situation unfolding. This, coupled with emergency equipment like that found on the aircraft, allow for the honing of ability and critical response time.”
“Fortunately, emergency evacuation situations happen very rarely, but a cabin crew member has to always be prepared for this kind of occurrence. To be well-prepared, training has to be as realistic as possible. During cabin emergency evacuation training, crew members are undergoing both theoretical and practical training,” says Krupenkiniene.
Practical training takes place either in the door and overwing exit trainer, slide mock-up or in the actual aircraft. “During this training, cabin crew members learn how to open an aircraft door in an emergency situation, and use the slide during the evacuation.
They also learn evacuation procedures, such as shouting synchronised commands and controlling the crowd. Cabin crews learn how to act in case of an emergency landing on water during water survival training, which is performed in the pool using actual life jackets and life rafts.”
Simulations are indeed a core part of the cabin crew training requirements outlined by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and other regulators.
“However, the nature of these simulations is changing. We have seen a significant increase in demand from our customers for devices that allow them to conduct scenario-based training. This allows them to challenge their trainees in environments more closely approximating the experiences they could encounter on the actual aircraft,” says Marc Van den Broucque, managing director of cabin crew training device manufacturer Spatial.
“In order to cater for this demand, we have been developing our products to include augmented reality features, such as our virtual slide trainer that allows the trainee to better immerse themselves in the scenario, by providing both a realistic environment outside the cabin, as well as interactive slide inflation and slide malfunction scenarios.
“Virtual reality is a hot topic at the moment, and certainly has its place as an additional training method to the core regulatory requirements, but at present EASA has indicated that this technology will not be considered as a replacement for hands-on training for at least the next three to four years.”
Lufthansa Aviation Training offers a comprehensive range of cabin training: safety and emergency procedures (SEP), first aid, human factors (CRM) and service training. “Simulations of various situations is key in our emergency training courses. More than 50 training devices are available to our customers for these purposes – from door trainers over real fire-fighting containers, to cabin emergency evacuation trainers (CEET) of various aircraft types.
The main idea behind this is to allow our customers to train their cabin staff under the most realistic conditions, and to observe whether their behaviour is in line with flight safety manuals,” says Hansson.
“From spatial conditions and lighting to sound effects – everything is accurately reproduced, making it possible to effectively train for flight operations. We continuously invest in state-of-the-art training devices.
“Last year Lufthansa Aviation Training installed a CEET for the new Bombardier C Series 100/300 – the first C Series CEET worldwide. In June 2018, Lufthansa received its tenth Airbus 350-900, which is based in Munich.
“In order to familiarise cabin crews with the specific requirements of the aircraft’s door, Lufthansa Aviation Training installed an A350-900 door trainer in our Munich training centre with an original A350 door, which we received from Airbus before the A350 was an active part of the Lufthansa fleet.
“As Lufthansa ordered a number of 777-9 for its fleet, we will also introduce a brand new 777-9 CEET at our training centre in Frankfurt in early 2020. We will therefore enable our clients’ future 777-9 crews to train under accurate conditions and to familiarise with the aircraft type.”
Lufthansa Aviation Training also develops and builds its own training devices, by considering its customers’ needs and the latest developments in technology.
“One example is the burning mobile phone trainer. Some airlines – such as Lufthansa – warn passengers to pay extra attention to their electronic devices during the flight. This security statement has a serious background: if an electronic device, such as a mobile phone or tablet, has slipped into the gap between the upholstery and the backrest, or in between two seats, it could get trapped and – in the worst case scenario – catch fire. Knowing the risk is important, being able to fight a fire caused by a mobile device can save lives,” says Hansson.
“In order to face the problem and allow cabin crews to train for such a specific situation, Lufthansa Aviation Training has just developed a real innovation for emergency situations related to fire: a mobile phone fire trainer.
“The temperature within the training device gets hot, smoke emanates, and LEDs light up simulating flickering fire. Lufthansa already uses the new training device, Austrian Airlines plans to include it in their fire-fighting training in the future, and other airlines are also interested.
“Lufthansa Aviation Training also developed a new cockpit door keypad trainer, which can be used for training on any type of aircraft, with doors opening in both directions (into or out of the cockpit). This is possible by displaying the keypad on a touchscreen and allows a maximum of flexibility.”