Interim Recommendation IR19980080

Interim Recommendation issued to: Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Recommendation details
Output No: IR19980080
Date issued: 29 October 1998
Safety action status:



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 deficiencies.

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 employees;
(b) discussions with Australian regional airline employees and managers; 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.


Survey results

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 simulators;
(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 resuscitation;
(d) more training in emergency handling by the whole crew; and
(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 regulations

Australian civil aviation requirements for cabin crew training specify the following aspects of flight attendants' training and duties:

(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 4)

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.

International perspective

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 Manual states:

"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 emergency.

"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 this view.

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 evacuations; and
(d) comprehensive fire-fighting training, including requirements for communications between the cabin and flight deck during fire-fighting activities.

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.

Output text

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority reviews the current standards and training syllabus requirements for cabin attendants operating on fare-paying, passenger-carrying aircraft, with a view to widening the scope of those requirements to ensure that all airline operators develop a standard, comprehensive syllabus of training for cabin attendants.

In reviewing and widening the scope of the current standards and training requirements, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority recognises the special needs and specifies the unique training requirements of the "solo" flight attendant, and those operations which carry fare-paying passengers without a flight attendant.

As a result of the investigation into the above safety deficiency, the Bureau simultaneously issues to management and training departments of regional airline operators the following interim recommendations:


The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that management and training departments of regional airline operators ensure that flight attendant emergency training programs include joint flight crew/cabin crew training in the principles and practice of crew resource management.


The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation recommends that management and training departments of regional airline operators ensure that all flight attendant training programs provide practical proficiency exercises for training in:

(i) aircraft emergency evacuations, for both land and water operations;
(ii) the operation of each type of aircraft emergency exit;
(iii) the use of all aircraft emergency equipment; and
(iv) first aid and cardiopulminary resuscitation.

Initial response
Date issued: 14 March 2002
Response from: Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Action status: Monitor
Response text:

In reviewing and widening the scope of the current standards and training requirements, BASI recommends that CASA recognises the special needs and specifies the unique training requirements of the 'solo' flight attendant, and those operations which carry fare-paying passengers without a flight attendant.

CASA acknowledges the intent of this recommendation and advises that since the Regional Airlines Safety Study was conducted CASA has established positions for and employed five full time experienced Cabin Safety Specialists. All of the specialists were involved in the subject survey at the time as industry participants and as members of a Cabin Safety Working Group - as such they are very aware of the issues raised in the report to the study.

In addition to the Cabin Safety Specialists, CASA Human Factor Specialists have been involved in assessing the adequacy of competencies specified for the training involved.

As a function of the current regulatory reform program the regulations covering areas included in the study have been reviewed and, where found deficient, have been modified in the appropriate drafts of Civil Aviation Safety Regulation (CAS R) Parts 119, 121A and 121B as applicable. The Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for each of these CASR Parts are expected to be released in April 2002.

Whilst CASA believes all issues raised in the study report have been addressed within the draft regulations, the process of internal and external comment will enable any further issues raised to be addressed.

Based on the above advice and regulatory action, the ATSB reclassifies the recommendation as Closed - Accepted (31 March 2008)

Last update 01 April 2011