Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Unsung heroes

Reports of the San Francisco plane crash made it sound as if the cabin crew simply scuttled off the plane along with the passengers. This is insultingly ignorant of their vital role in getting passengers off the plane and saving lives.

It's not generally realised that cabin crew have very intensive training on how to handle emergency situations of every possible kind, including fires, crash landings, hijacking, medical crises, disruptive passengers and childbirth.

The one thing the crew did not do was scuttle off the plane like frightened mice. They stayed right there and did all the things they were trained to do to rescue the passengers.

Despite the possibility the plane might have caught fire or blown up, they did what was needed. They deflated an escape slide with trapped passengers under it, slashed seat belts open, guided people through the smoke, put out small fires, and calmed the panic-stricken.

Only when they had done everything possible to evacuate the passengers safely did they leave the stricken plane themselves - thankfully without it exploding around them.

Many of them did their work in the regulation pencil skirts and high heels, having trained in their flight clothing and having worked out how not to be hampered by it.

It's still widely assumed that cabin crew are just glorified food-servers, doling out the skimpy airline fare and then having a nap or devouring the latest Patricia Cornwell. Their exhaustive training on handling emergencies and in-flight glitches in general is still overlooked - mainly because you only see it in action if your own plane is in trouble.

It's a professional skill-set we should all properly appreciate. After all, guiding terrified passengers out of a smoke-filled plane while mincing along in a pencil skirt is not a feat we could all manage. Unsung heroes indeed.

Here are two articles about the cabin crew's training at Jezebel and NBC

PS: A new report says the pilots delayed evacuation for 90 seconds

17 comments:

John Gray said...

Well said.......mind you the captain of the CONCORDIA wasn't so professional

Nick said...

John: No, he certainly wasn't. And clearly there was no effective team ethos either or his behaviour would have been checked by other people.

John Gray said...

I loved the fact the coastcard demanded he get back on board

Ursula said...

Nick, there is enough passion in your post to make me wonder whether you ever worked as a steward. Not, of course, that you would have worn a pencil skirt. Or any skirt for that matter. Though have never flown Scottish.

I once worked with a guy who (in a previous life) had been member of cabin crew. By all accounts it was not so much a way of making a living as screwing your way round the world. No wonder his future wife (previously a stewardess) "grounded" him. Literally.

U

Nick said...

John: Yes, that was pretty incredible! Women, children and the Captain first....

Ursula: Definitely not. And no, I don't think pencil skirts are obligatory for the guys yet. Or kilts. I think you're right that sexual shenanigans very much go with the job. Especially if your usual partner is thousands of miles away and can't keep an eye on you....

Liz said...

I am a slightly nervous flyer. I keep my eyes on the crew: if they look calm in spite of the strange noises and the smoke coming from behind the curtain then I feel comforted.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Yes indeed! The crew on an aeroplane are often overlooked as deserving praise or special mention in these situations, and I've often watched them working in those uniforms and wondered how on earth they manage their ordinary, run-of-the-mill tasks, let alone coping with any emergency that might arise. If you ask me, it's darned stupid to require the women to wear high heels. Not sure you could get away with it in England.

Nick said...

Liz: That sounds like a sensible rule of thumb. The crew ought to know what's a worrying sign and what isn't.

Jay: Well, the female Virgin crews certainly wear short skirts and heels. Not sure about other airlines. I really don't understand why they have to wear such impractical clothes. Would the passengers really desert the airline if the crew wore pants?

Secret Agent Woman said...

This is off topic, but it irks the hell out of me that women would be required to wear heels for any job, let alone one that requires being on your feet. DO the airlines pay for corrective surgery and pain meds down the road? Women should never be required to wear anything men aren't required to wear.

Nick said...

Agent: I couldn't agree more. Why on earth does any woman need to wear heels, either at work or socially? As you say, they're just bad for your feet - and a big nuisance. The idea that such painful contraptions are either glamorous or sexy is absurd. And I really like your principle that if men don't wear them, then women shouldn't have to.

Nick said...

Agent: I'm always aware that the fashionable male designers who produce high heels never actually wear the things.

Bijoux said...

I recently heard that the wight restrictions for flight attendants may become stricter again because airlines can save zillions of dollars in fuel by reducing overall weight.

Not sure why anyone would choose this profession.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Yes, the Indian airline GoAir has just announced it will only hire women as cabin crew as they're lighter than men and the airline could save £330,000 a year.

I suppose it's a job that still has a slightly glamorous image despite the humdrum reality.

Rummuser said...

You are so right Nick. They are truly the unsung heroes.

Nick said...

Ramana: As I said, many of us don't realise how much specialist training they have because we've never seen them use it.

speccy said...

Great post. We underestimate their worth, yet couldn't survive without their training.
God knows, I couldn't walk across the room in high heels, never mind save lives.

Nick said...

Speccy: Indeed, how many of us could even walk on the things, let alone save a plane-load of terrified passengers while we're at it?