The Power Of Corporate Specific Emergency Training
July 14, 2010 - 5:17 pm
Susan C. Friedenberg has been very proactive in Business Aviation for 25 years and is the founder of Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Consulting Services. She is passionate regarding raising the educational and egress training standards for the business aviation flight attendant/third crew member.
I am quite certain that a pilot given the option to share his cockpit with a non-type rated pilot with no experience on that type aircraft would certainly decline. The same standards in choosing a flight attendant should apply. Any flight attendant who is not properly trained should not be on a corporate aircraft.
The following story clearly demonstrates the value of emergency and first-aid training. It was a Part 121/Commercial mission, but with that stated, it was a three-person crew. Some 99.9% of our missions are three-people crew IF they deem it per company standard operational procedures to have a trained person in the back.... or a "cabin server."
On Aug. 21, 1995, Robin Fech, a flight attendant for Atlantic Southeast Airlines, reported for work. The three-person crew on Flight 7529, an Embraer 120, took off out of Atlanta, GA, for Gulfport, MS, with 26 passengers onboard.
As crew members, we flight attendants always have in the back of our minds the knowledge that anything could happen at any time. Flight attendants who have the proper emergency training are prepared for a variety of scenarios.
For instance, if they are emergency-trained third crew members, they are well versed in a variety of taxi, takeoff, in-flight, approach and landing scenarios. And if they are well-trained third crew members, they are at all times conscious of any irregular smells and sounds onboard the aircraft. During takeoff and landing, well-trained third crew members methodically make a mental/silent review of coordinated procedures to follow in tandem with the cockpit crew in the event of an emergency situation.
On this particular day, the aircraft took off and climbed to 18,000 feet. Robin had commenced a beverage service and her forward galley was occupied with loose service items. Suddenly the aircraft shuddered and shook violently, followed by an explosion. Without hesitation, Robin immediately invoked her emergency training procedures. She secured herself as the aircraft dropped approximately 9,000 feet.
One of the engine propeller blades snapped off and went into the engine cowling, which caused a fire and the engine to peel like an onion. Later they would find only 16 inches of the missing five-foot propeller blade remaining, attached to the hub on the plane.
Robin began stowing items in the galley and the cabin, briefing her passengers and managing their panic. For a long three minutes there was no communication or signals from the cockpit because they were literally fighting to gain control of the airplane. At approximately 11,500 feet the cockpit signaled and alerted Robin to the fact that they were attempting to make an emergency landing in Atlanta.
As the plane rocked, rolled and continuously lost altitude, Robin repeatedly demonstrated the brace position, checked seat belts, repositioned able-bodied passengers, briefed passengers on the location and operation of all the exits, and managed passenger panic for six-and-a-half long minutes. She never stopped utilizing her time to brief and re brief her passengers.
They never made it to the Atlanta airport, but instead crash-landed in an open field after shearing through tree tops in Carrollton, GA. Robin was knocked unconscious on impact and she awoke to the sounds of a roaring fire, breaking metal, and small explosions all around her. She found herself completely turned around in her jump seat and engulfed in dense black smoke.
With burns, cracked ribs and a broken collarbone and arm, Robin found herself trapped and unable to see into the cabin. She heard passengers screaming and moaning outside of what was left of the fuselage. Robin made her way out of the burning aircraft through smoke and fire and found some passengers still alive and in shock.
She performed first aid and used parts of her own clothing on passengers who were on fire. She then directed her attention to the cockpit area. The captain died on impact but the first officer was still alive and trapped in the burning cockpit. His hands were severely burned and he was making a futile attempt to chip his way out of the cockpit with a crash ax. She personally directed his rescue with the help of a surviving passenger. She heroically saved the lives of 17 passengers and her second-in-command.
At the time of this crash, Robin had been a commercial flight attendant for two-and-a-half years. She had attended one initial emergency and first aid training class and two recurrent training classes. The surviving passengers were grateful for her knowledge; passenger Bryon Gaskill asserted, "I can't imagine anybody being more purposeful in doing her job." And passenger U.S. Air Force Major Chuck LeMay recounted, "Because of her, folks inside the cabin remained calm. No one was screaming. . . We did not panic. Robin behaved like a drill sergeant."
Click for NTSB accident report.
As a CEO with a manager in charge of your corporate flight department you clearly have a choice. You can hire a trained third crew member for full time or contract services with emergency/first aid training or a "cabin server." Try to envision the above scenario without a properly trained third crew member. A tad scary?