SUBJECT - FLIGHT ATTENDANT TRAINING
INTRODUCTION - REGIONAL AIRLINES SAFETY STUDY
Between October 1995 and July 1997 the Bureau of Air Safety
Investigation undertook a study of the safety of Australian
regional airlines. The objectives of this study were to:
(a) identify safety deficiencies affecting regional airline
operations in Australia; and
(b) identify means of reducing the impact on safety of these
For the purposes of the survey, regional airlines were grouped
according to the number of passenger seats fitted to the largest
aircraft operated by that airline in January 1997. The groups are
defined as follows:
(a) Group 1: 1-9 seats;
(b) Group 2: 10-19 seats; and
(c) Group 3: more than 20 seats.
The study involved analysing data obtained from:
(a) responses to a survey of Australian regional airline
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and
(c) air safety occurrence reports involving regional airlines over
a 10-year period (1986-1995) from the BASI database.
This recommendation addresses one of the safety deficiencies
identified as a result of this study.
(NOTE: The terms, "cabin attendant", "flight attendant" and "cabin
crew member", as used in this report, are interchangeable and refer
to those members of an aircraft crew who are qualified in the
execution of emergency procedures in accordance with the
requirements of CAO section 20.11.)
The present regulations on the safety training required for flight
attendants are minimal and lacking in detail. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that considerable differences exist between the various
flight attendant training courses run by the regional airline
operators. In part, these differences may be attributed to the lack
of a standard, comprehensive syllabus of training.
Flight attendants were asked to suggest ways in which they
considered that their safety training could be improved. The most
frequent comments were:
(a) more practical training in aircraft evacuations, with a
preference for conducting practice evacuations from cabin
(b) more practical training in handling in-flight emergencies, for
example, by using emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers
and personal breathing equipment;
(c) more practical first aid training, such as in cardiopulmonary
(d) more training in emergency handling by the whole crew;
(e) a longer initial training course.
The fact that more than one-quarter of the flight attendants felt
that their initial safety training did not adequately prepare them
for in-flight emergencies and that 54% of respondents commented on
the need for more practical emergency training, suggested that the
initial training conducted by some airlines was inadequate (see
attachment 1 for examples of survey responses).
Australian civil aviation requirements for cabin crew training
specify the following aspects of flight attendants' training and
(a) numbers of flight attendants required on an aircraft;
(b) the practical and theoretical extent of their proficiency test
on general emergency procedures;
(c) training requirements on an aircraft type; and
(d) minimum requirements for proficiency testing, including who can
conduct the test, how long the result is valid for and the
maintenance of test records. (Civil Aviation Order (CAO) 20.16.3
subsection 6.1, CAO 20.11 subsections 12.1-12.6, 13.3, and Appendix
The Cabin Safety and Carriage of Persons Group, assigned to the
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Regulatory Review, has
recommended comprehensive upgrading of those standards, including
the need for "hands on" training and joint cabin crew/flight crew
crew resource management (CRM) training.
A number of aviation safety bodies such as the US National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Transport Canada and the
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), have addressed
the upgrading of flight attendant training standards.
Recommendations from these organisations include the provision of
joint flight crew/cabin crew CRM training and advocate the
importance of practical "hands on" training.
The introduction to the ICAO Cabin Attendants Safety Training
"Cabin attendants' training is about safety. Their primary duties
and responsibilities in air transport operation are safety related,
which should be clearly reflected in their training. There is
reason to believe that, in many places, cabin attendants may not
have been given enough information about, or practice with,
equipment and situations to master the skills they need during an
"As the structural strength of transport category aeroplanes
improves and accidents become more survivable, cabin attendants are
assuming a more critical role for ensuring passenger safety. Cabin
attendants are an important part of the operational safety system,
both in the prevention of accidents and in the assistance they give
to survivors in the event of an accident. Because of these changes,
civil aviation authorities should ensure that operators implement a
training system for cabin attendants which consistently results in
no less than a minimum level of proficiency so that cabin
attendants can perform their duties and undertake their
responsibilities in the most efficient and effective manner".
ICAO also recommends joint flight crew/cabin crew emergency
training exercises and considers that such training should be held
at least once during initial training and as often as possible
throughout recurrent training programs. This training would help to
instil a one-crew concept among all crew members and ensure
coordination of cabin and flight crew procedures as a synchronised
team, with a sound appreciation of each other's contribution toward
successful management of an emergency situation.
Flight attendant performance during emergencies
The NTSB conducted a special investigation on flight attendant
training and performance during emergency situations. The study
revealed that some flight attendants did not demonstrate adequate
knowledge of exit operations, use and location of equipment, use of
checklists during an emergency, and some were unable to follow
established or standard operating procedures. Crew communication
was also cited as being deficient in some cases.
At the conclusion of the report, the NTSB stated: "Identification
of these deficiencies indicate that flight attendants' safety
training has been seriously neglected.
The Safety Board strongly believes that the ability of flight
attendants to perform their duties successfully during emergency
situations is directly related to the quality of their emergency
training". (NTSB/SIR-92/02 Washington, DC. "Flight Attendant
Training and Performance During Emergency Situations").
The survey responses made by Australian flight attendants support
The "solo" flight attendant
Of special significance to regional airlines are "solo" flight
attendant operations. In general, aircraft carrying between 20 and
36 passengers are required to carry one flight attendant (CAO
20.16.3). As this size aircraft is commonly operated by regional
airlines, many flight attendants employed by them operate as "solo"
flight attendants. Any in-flight cabin emergencies which occur,
such as a medical emergency or a cabin fire, are dealt with by the
flight attendant, usually without assistance from the flight crew.
Anything they fail to learn in training they are unlikely to learn
on the job. Regional airline flight attendants, therefore, have a
special need for comprehensive standards for training.
The need for flight attendants to call upon their safety training
in an emergency situation is rare but often sudden and may be
life-threatening. Flight attendants, therefore, must be provided
with the knowledge and skills to perform efficiently and
effectively. It is imperative that they are practised and familiar
with all onboard emergency equipment and procedures to enable them
to perform adequately in the event of an emergency.
In order to ensure that cabin attendants are practised and familiar
with all emergency procedures and equipment, minimum cabin crew
training standards must indicate the desired degree of expertise to
be achieved during initial training, and to be maintained during
recurrent training. The training syllabus should include:
(a) requirements for joint cabin/flight crew training in the
principles and practice of CRM;
(b) emphasis on the need for practical, "hands-on" training in the
use of all emergency equipment;
(c) practical recurrent training drills for both land and water
(d) comprehensive fire-fighting training, including requirements
for communications between the cabin and flight deck during
CASA should approve and monitor airline training programs on a
regular basis, recognising the special needs associated with "solo"
flight attendant operations, and those operations which carry
fare-paying passengers without a flight attendant.