The Initial Course (3)

This post, as promised, is about the learning subjects and what is IATA and ICAO.

In order to become a flight attendant, you must have knowledge. But not any knowledge. Naturally, every experience you had before, will for sure help and give you the strenght to deal with situations on-board. With the knowledge I have today, I find knowlegde, previous experience very important. You do not have to have previous experience in aviation in order to start, but I find convenient to use your past experiences in your job as a flight attendant. No matter what you have done before. To take some lesson out of it and apply in your new life.

After learning about phonetic alphabet, airport codes, grooming we start to learn the several procedures that must be perfomed while on-board.

The order I will be writing here is probably not the order that happened, but it is what we go through. We first learn the difference between safety and security. They do seem similar, right? But they have a subtle difference and are two different modules in the course.

Safety is the prevention of accidents, that might have human involvement or not. Security is the prevention of malicious activities by people. Basically, safety is to protect from and security is being protected from. We confuse them easily, but in the end both lead us to protection, so it is indeed easy to confuse. In aviation however, safety is about protecting against accidents that would compromise the aircraft. Security in aviation, means, is to prevent any malicious acts that have the aircraft, crew and passengers as a target.

Those terms lead us to learn what things are being done to protect us, what things we have to do to protect. A good example of protection is the x-ray in the airport security. With technology advancing, it is very difficult that a malicious act will prejudice the aircraft. Although, we know that still happens. You can see older examples as the 9/11 that saddly killed so many people. After that terrorism attack, the airports improved their x-ray system, adopted Identification check and in the airplanes it was not allowed anymore to visit the flight deck and all doors must be closed, bullet proof and no passenger is allowed inside during cruise (during flight). Some malicious events, changed the face of aviation and made what we have now, which keeps changing and will change after the Covid-19 situation.

Another example regarding safety is for example flight limitations. In aviation, crew (flight attendants and pilots) must have a limit for flying. Within Ryanair, you fly a maximum of 100 hours per month. Those 100 hours might be less or a bit increased, but that should not happen often. In a day, maximum allowed is 12 hours and more than that, cause decrease the attention levels of the cabin crew (another name for flight attendant). Safety implies that crew is well rested, slept well, does not fly more than it is supposed without rest or many days in a row. Crew must be able to perform all their duties with a good night of sleep and fresh.

Another example of safety is seen right before you board the aircraft. When you are waiting to board, you might have noticed these “bins” on the way. Normally yellow, but can also be red. They are not trash cans but Foreign Object Debri/Damage. They serve with the purpose of keeping away from the aircraft any object that can cause a damage to the aircraft. From, papers to rings or scarfs. With wind, rain, stress passengers lose many objects and to avoid those objects end up in the engine, they are taken away to this FOD. This way, the area is clean of objects, but also the plane is safe from anything that does not belong there.

Those two subjects are the start of our lessons. We learn why they started and what is our role as a cabin crew. Our priority is protect the aircraft, crew and passengers.

When security and safety are learned, we will be doing an exam. After each subject we need to do an exam and the pass mark differ from the subject but normally is 80% or 90%. You get one more chance to do the exam in case you have failed. When the second attempt is also a fail, you will be sent home.

During those 6 weeks, we also learn about Dangerous Goods. Although cabin crew are not in contact with dangerous goods, it is important to receive training in that area and know what to do in case there is a situation. But what is dangerous goods? As the name says, dangerous goods are substances that when transported cause a risk to health, safety, property and environment. They are 9 classes of dangerous goods and all of them must be assigned, identified and easy to be recognized. We learn about those classes, to identify them, to understand how they must be packed (even though we do not pack them), who packs them and who delivers them. We learn also that some of them are also hazardous, meaning, they pose a risk even when not handled. Part of the training includes a drill (sequence of actions) that must be performed when there is a problem with suspected dangerous goods.

From DG (Dangerous Goods), we go to Emergency Procedures. What are those? The name says it all. I learned all that was related to what should be done in case of an emergency. Those emergency procedures are also known as drills. Those drills, are written in our manual and by the time I had my course, It was mandatory to know each drill word by word. We could not remove or add anything that could facilite the memory. The way presented in our manual, was the way we had to know. Those drills had an initial reaction; for example: inform cabin crew. Informing cabin crew means pressing the call bell that is above everyone’s seat, talking, calling from one part of the plane to the other. (our internal phone allows that). So, first thing to be done in those drills was inform. After informing the cabin crew, it was mandatory to inform the flight crew. For that, on each drill, each cabin crew has a different role. The first one that arrives to scene is the one who will be dealing with the emergency and the others will be doing according to the time they arrived there. This is crucial in all the emergencies as everyone needs to act quickly and not lose time. In the aircraft if you lose time, you lose people. Emergency procedures can be anything that happens in the aircraft that endangers the safety of everyone. We learn the drill regarding fire; where it can happen, how it can happen and what we should do; In case of landing in water we also learn what we should and how many seconds we have to evacuate (empty) the aircraft. (90 seconds for all the aircrafts in the world) or even if we land in another place that is not a runway. All of these drills are to be written, memorized, known, understood word by word.

When fully understood the emergency procedures, we will start learning about crew resource managment, or CRM as commonly known. CRM is the way we deal with procedures, colleagues, passengers and the aircraft. It is all resources that allows us to be a better person while perfoming our duties. It is what helps us to be resilient (ability to adapt to every situation), quick and have passion. CRM will allow cabin crew to be more of a human being. It is easy in this job that we lose our patience, that we get discouraged or even upset with colleagues. It is all normal; CRM comes precisely to give us what we still don’t have, what we need to improve, what we need to know and how to react to each situation that is new for us. In this module, we have role-playing (changing on’s behaviour to assume a role), study cases and we make sure we understand the need for drills, the importance of working as a team and how to make each flight pleasant. CRM is then, the study of procedures where human error can have devasting consequences. The ability of deciding quickly, but not impulsively; deciding with knowledge of the procedures.

To not forget, all these modules are always covered by SOP (standard operations procedure). You might have heard that before. SOP is a detailed sequence of instructions that makes the cabin crew/flight crew carry out with their duties. Is the basis of all the procedures. You do not only learn that in the beggining, but it is a constant learning. It goes from how the company works; the rules, the operational systems online, to where is the equipment on-board. Is all instructions for the good functioning of the operation.

Almost in the very end of the course, I was also trained in sales and customer service. These 2 subjects are together in one module and work hand by hand. If you know, in Ryanair, it is buy on-board, so everything we have, passenger has the opportunity to buy if it is desired. With that, is it important that crew knows the principles of customer service and sales. The importance of selling the right product but above all, bought or not bought, provide customer service. Customer service is what we are when dealing with the passenger but adapted to the situation. We learn how to explore our talents, views, improve our attitude and understand that we serve, but we are not servants. So, all the sales tecniques, way of dealing with passenger are learnt in the midst of those 6 weeks.

By the end of 6 weeks, we receive what is known by “Wings”. We are approved and ready to fly. Those wings are mandatory to be use at all times in our uniform blaser. The cerimony in the end, is also the first time we get to try and use our uniforms. 6 weeks go really fast, and it is not easy. For some people, there aren’t any difficulties, but luckily we are not all the same. I did experience difficulties but that will be for another post.

Now, as said before, what is IATA and ICAO? IATA means: International Air Transport Association, was founded initially in 1919 in The Hague, Netherlands under the name International Air Traffic Association. IATA succeeded and was founded now in Havana, Cuba in 1945. It is the body of the world’s airlines. It consists of 290 airlines in 117 countries. It helps formulate industry policy and standards, which means, it creates the rules. Any other airline have to use the rules of IATA, but never remove them. Airlines can increase those rules, but not diminish them. IATA is in hand with ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organization; it is a specialized agency that belongs to the United Nations. ICAO ensures that air transport is growing and ensures that growth is safe and in order.

For the next post, I will be talking about general terminology. A post, that will show some of the terminology that we must know when we work in aviation.

Stay tunned!

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