Interim Recommendation IR19980094

Interim Recommendation issued to: Regional Airlines

Recommendation details
Output No: IR19980094
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 purpose 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.)


Some flight attendant safety training conducted by regional airlines, lacks sufficient practical experience in emergency procedures and use of emergency equipment, and lacks crew resource management (CRM) training.


Survey results

Flight attendants were asked to suggest ways in which 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 courses.

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, suggests that the initial training conducted by some airlines is inadequate (see attachment 1 for examples of survey responses).

Australian regulations

The current Australian regulatory requirements for cabin crew training are contained in Civil Aviation Order CAO 20.11, subsection 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 the training standards, including the need for practical "hands on" training and joint cabin crew/flight crew, crew resource management 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 Organization (ICAO), have addressed the upgrading of flight attendant training standards. Recommendations from these organisations also include 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.

On the subject of crew resource management, the ICAO Cabin Attendants' Safety Training Manual states:

"The training should focus on the functioning of crew members as a team, not simply as a collection of technically competent individuals, and should provide opportunities for crew members to practise their skills together in the roles they normally perform in flight. The programme should teach crew members how to use their interpersonal and leadership styles in ways that foster crew effectiveness. The programme should also teach crew members that their behaviour during normal, routine circumstances can have a powerful impact on how well the crew as a whole function during high-workload, stressful situations. Similar situations experienced in training increase the probability that a crew will handle actual stressful situations more competently."

A special NTSB investigation on flight attendant training and performance during emergency situations, revealed that some flight attendants did not demonstrate adequate knowledge of exit operations, use and location of equipment or the 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.

The NTSB study stated:

"Identification of these deficiencies indicates that flight attendants' safety training has been seriously neglected. A training system which consistently results in no less than a minimum level of proficiency should be made available to enable flight attendants to perform their duties and undertake their responsibilities in the most efficient and effective manner.

"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 "Flight Attendant Training and Performance During Emergency Situations").

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 subsection 6.1). As aircraft of this size are commonly operated by regional airlines, many flight attendants operate as "solo" flight attendants. From the day they complete their training, the flight attendants work without the supervision of a more experienced flight attendant. 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 of 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 on-board emergency equipment and procedures to enable them to perform adequately in the event of an emergency.

Airline management and airline training departments must recognise the special needs associated with "solo" flight attendant operations and provide a level of training which will adequately prepare those flight attendants to confidently and effectively handle in-flight emergencies.

To promote an understanding of each other's duties and responsibilities, and to enable effective communication and coordination in abnormal situations, joint flight crew/cabin crew, crew resource management training should be provided.

Output text

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.

In addition, as a result of the investigation into the above safety deficiency, the Bureau simultaneously issues to management and training departments of regional airline operators interim recommendation IR980096:

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.

In addition, as a result of the investigation into the above safety deficiency, the Bureau simultaneously issues to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority the following interim recommendation:


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.

Initial response
Date issued:
Response from: Regional Airlines
Action status: No Response
Response text:
ATSB response:

ATSB Note: As this recommendation was not issued to any specific organisation, no response was expected.

Last update 01 April 2011