Why realistic training is critical for aviation cabin crew
Hawkesbury, ON, Canada (April 1st, 2019) – Emergencies are situations no one wants to encounter. When on a passenger airplane, this may hold even more importance. Those situations are, however, a reality all airlines must face: every flight has a risk associated to it. Despite flying being THE safest way to travel, that minor chance of something going wrong MUST be mitigated.
That is why there is a critical importance associated to the world of aviation training. To narrow things, I will focus solely on cabin crew training, as they are the
one factor that can really make a difference in ensuring the safety of an airline’s passengers during such an event. For this, they need to be ready for anything a situation can throw at them. They simply cannot be caught in a moment where reality takes them off guard, because in that moment, lives literally depend on them.
This is where realism in training is key. Now we’ve all seen the upsurge of virtual simulation in the aviation world, which, I will agree, is a great tool to complement the physical arsenal of training equipment found in training centers around the world. Is it ready to replace the traditional equipment? Until the virtual world can perfectly emulate the heat and dryness of a fire, the physical sensation of going down an evacuation slide, the sounds and feel of wearing a protective breathing hood or even the weight of a crash axe, it simply cannot.
Realism in training covers all the aspects of an emergency, whether they be mental, emotional or physical. The crew needs to have expectations on how all the equipment on an aircraft will function in such a situation, and even more so, be able to anticipate how they, themselves, will react. Therefore even the smallest of equipment needs to be constructed for an accurate representation of what is on the aircraft, all the while offering the durability and practicality that high volumes of training require.
Let’s give an example using a type of event we have seen in the news of recent times: A passenger’s cellphone has begun to smoke. The crew ensures the area is cleared just in time to see the device catch fire. The flight attendant on scene has not faced any similar situation and is caught aback by the intensity of the heat and the speed at which the smoke spreads. Nerves running high, she pushes the device, forgets gloves and the fire worsens and spreads in the several seconds it takes her to recover from the initial shock. Now let’s turn back time and instead use a flight attendant that trained several times in a specialized training environment dealing with real small fires. She would know, before the device even caught on fire, that smokes goes fast and the fire from a lithium battery can be more intense than that of a small house fire. Without that shock, she can apply the routine to respond to the situation far more quickly, efficiently and prevent any escalation.
I will give another scenario that our product development team encountered here at Tulmar: we were developing our new girt trainer product after noting a high demand for the equipment and questioned the accuracy and realism of it. We questioned all the aspects of the device, from its appearance, accessories locations, its look and feel and more importantly, the experience of using it. We compared the activation of an evacuation slide to that found on an aircraft, verifying TSO requirements and cabin simulators. We also reviewed how several centers were training on the inflation of a slide and were surprised by our findings. Most system in place are very easy to activate, using mechanism such as bungee cords or simple attachments meanwhile, activating a slide doesn’t feel at all like removing a Velcro handle. We tested our prototype, ready with the accurate pull force in place. The first students who tried to inflate the slide thought the mechanism was “stuck” or broken because it wouldn’t pull. We had to inform them they needed to pull a lot harder to trigger the activation. All of them were surprised, but once they knew, they were able to complete the training, and quite smoothly I might add. Now picture them coming to that realization after crash landing in the water, thinking the slide is broken! Those seconds or even minutes it could take for them to realize that it’s not a malfunction, is all it would take to miss saving one more or even a few more passengers. Those are instances where just one, is a big number.
We need to consider that realism in training involves a lot. It impacts all the senses: how it looks, how it feels to the touch, how you must move to use it or wearing a piece of equipment, how it sounds. It is the sense of the experience that must be present. Aviation students will continue to have time in a training pool, learning to board a raft or released evacuation slide, to wear and inflate life vests, to face small fires and go down evacuation slides, because an emergency, is just not the right time to have that first experience.
Tulmar Safety Systems Inc. is a fully integrated designer and manufacturer of engineered protective equipment and survivability solutions for the aerospace and defence markets worldwide.
The company’s products range from highly specialized protection equipment for military vehicles to engineered training equipment for aviation cabin crew. Tulmar’s cabin safety training equipment are sold to airlines and training centers around the world. Products are supported through a fully certified repair and overhaul division.
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Tulmar Safety Systems Inc.
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