flightmum











{July 8, 2013}   Asiana flight 214

Typically,  when there is a plane crash, two observations come to play. One: People point their fingers at the pilots and scream: Pilot Error. Second,  the heroic acts of the flight attendants get all but forgotten. 

In this most recent accident,  many media outlets are talking about the fire fighters and the emergency response teams as the true heroes of this tragedy. The flight attendants, once again, have all but been forgotten. 

The flight attendants are just as much heroes as the other first responders. The flight attendants were the ones to shout their bracing commands to the passengers as the aircraft was about to crash land. They were the ones to assess the outside conditions,  open their emergency exits and pull the inflation handles. The flight attendants were the ones to command the passengers to release their seat belt and evacuate the aircraft.  Many passengers ‘freeze’ after a crash and they need the authoritative voice of the flight attendants to command them on what to do: Come this way. Cross your arms. Jump and Slide. 

Flight attendants, like myself, spend six intense weeks of training before we earn our ‘wings’. We need to earn 90% on our tests to pass initial training. Many intelligent people don’t make it. We learn about the ins and outs of each aircraft type. We become experts on fire fighting,  disruptive passengers, first aid procedures and evacuating an  aircraft in under two minutes.

We learn to check for danger and  then open our emergency doors that we had previously armed. We can jump into action in a planned or an unplanned emergency.  We learn how to survive in a deserted area or on a lifeboat. We take charge during a depressurization or an aborted landing. 

During each take-off and landing, we silently review all of our emergency procedures so as to be ready for any catastrophe. 

Every year, we attend a recurrent training about our emergency procedures to keep up to date with our procedures.

We are hired to save lives. Everything else, including your diet Coke and bag of peanuts, is just a bonus to you, the first passenger.

Bravo to the flight attendants of Asiana, flight 214. You did your job and saved lives. You make us proud. True heroes.

Advertisements


I recently watched the movie Flight with Denzel Washington.  I love any movie/tv show/book about flight attendants or that takes place on a plane. I am not quite an aviation geek but perhaps a distant cousin.

Without going into too much detail for those who did not yet see the film, the Captain (Denzel) is an alcoholic captain and crashes the plane. Don’t worry.  This all happens in the first 20 minutes of the movie. There is still plenty of story to watch.

Firstly, in the film, it shows the captain naked in bed with a hot flight attendant (my double) and they had been up to no good all night drinking, having sex and doing lines of cocaine. In reality, the sexy flight attendant wouldn’t have slept with the captain…he’s just not hot enough. If all night drinking and cocaine parties are happening in real life between pilots and flight attendants, then I am not getting the right layover!

There is a rule that we can not drink alcohol 12 hours before departure.  It is generally a well respected rule. Also, we can randomly getdrug tested at any time on duty, so I have never see anyone partake in illegal drugs. But, I suppose if one of us was an alcoholic,  perhaps there could be some drunks working on the plane. But, I believe that if a pilot was going to drink all night, he would have done it in private so nobody else on the crew knew.

Next part of the story line, Denzel walks into the cockpit and the first officer suspects he is drunk.  He also refers to him as ‘Sir’. In real life, they call each other by their first names and I would like to think that the f.o. would have walked off the plane the moment he suspected that the captain was not fit to fly.

During the beginning of the  flight, the plane encounters severe turbulence.  I personally have only ever experienced light or moderate chop. Severe is HARD CORE! In real life,  99% of the time, the turbulence is known ahead of time, reported by previous airplanes flying at that altitude. In that case, the flight plan would have been modified to go around that ‘weather’. Regardless,  I am happy to report that, at my airline, the communication between the pilots and the flight attendants would have been far superior. 
During that awful turbulence,  as a flight attendant, I’d strap myself into my jumpseat and not get up again until it was safe for me to do so. In the movie, an overhead bin pops open, and you see the flight attendant from the back of the aircraft walking/being thrown around to try to close that bin. She never makes it back to her seat.

Another scene,  shows the plane go upside down (ya okay, whatever. According to my pilot I flew with today, it is impossible to fly the plane upside down and then invert it just before a crash landing), and a little boy falls out of his seat. The flight attendant in the front of the aircraft crawls on her hands and knees on the ceiling  to get to him. She also never makes it back to her jumpseat and emergency door. I will tell you why I wouldn’t have done that. My job, in case of a crash landing,  is to open my emergency exit, and evacuate as many passengers as possible. I have to be there for the greater good of all the passengers vs just one. So, it was a pretty stupid move on her part.

Then, when the plane loses its ability to fly properly, the captain calls the in charge flight attendant to help land the plane by pushing on the throttle.  As much as it would be fun to help land the plane in real life, the two pilots in the flight deck are (usually) fully capable to do their job without a third set of hands.  I guess, that is Hollywood for you. 

Recently an acquaintance told me he saw the movie and asked if I’d get out of my seat and save him, like the little boy. I told him no but I’d save his ass later when I was alive to evacuate the aircraft. He didn’t seem to like my answer. Oh well.

All in all, I liked the movie. 

The next morning, I went to work and do you think I was scared at all on the flight?  Well, no, of course not. But, I did check the pilots pupils to make sure they weren’t dilated…just in case.



{February 20, 2013}   Evacuate! Evacuate!

You go through your entire career hoping that you never have to use your emergency training to face the unexpected on an aircraft. Even though we silently think about the inevitable before every take-off and every landing, as per our regulations, so as to mentally prepare ourselves for anything at all to come our way.

Annually,  we attend a flight attendant emergency prep refresher course and practice fighting fires, shouting out our commands and activating the emergency door slides and evacuating the aircraft in 90 seconds.

Some flight attendants fly for 30 plus years and never have anything more serious to deal with on the airplane more than a scraped knee. And that’s the way we like it.

After three years of flying,  I had a real live emergency on my aircraft. This is how it went down.  I was working a flight to Jamaica on a Boeing 767. Flight was full. My jumpseat was in the back of the aircraft. We took off without incident.  Ten minutes later,  the Captain comes over the p.a. and says the code words to let the flight attendants know that there is something wrong on the airplane. 

The in charge flight attendant went into the flight deck to find out what was going on. She got all the necessary information and called us to brief us on the situation.  The captain said that his flight deck indication showed that we had TOO much oil on the gauge and having too much oil on the plane is dangerous and a fire hazard.  We were going to return to the airport and have maintenance look at it.

Right away, we prepared the cabin for imminent landing. The captain said that is was going to be a high alert abnormal landing and NOT an emergency landing. We sat in our jumpseat and silently reviewed all of our emergency procedures ‘just in case’.

We held our breath as the plane landed. Thankfully,  it landed without incident.  The captain had mentioned to us and the passengers that we were going to park away from the airport and that there would be fire trucks and emergency vehicles to check out the airplane just to be on the safe side. 

A minute later, the captain said ‘evacuate, evacuate ‘ on the left side of the airplane. Oh no, that was MY side, I paused for a moment,  and then my training kicked in.  I started my shout out commands and opened my emergency door. I was mesmerized as the slide deployed. It jumped up and out towards the ground. All of a sudden, I was shouting to the passengers to come to my emergency exit and to go down the slide. I also asked them to leave all their luggage behind as it can damage the slide. It was pretty surreal.  My passengers were not rushing to the exit or anything but were casually coming over. Probably because they didn’t really know what the emergency was. Actually,  we didn’t even really know what the emergency was either.  Later, we found out that the fire department saw a fire in our right engine and that’s why we were evacuating. 

We continued evacuating the aircraft while simultaneously grabbing the passengers bags and throwing them in the galley.  One woman froze in fear at the top of the slide. We had to get her to slide down. Finally she did. 

Eventually,  everyone was off, we checked the cabin, grabbed a piece of emergency equipment (I took the megaphone) and we slid down to safety. For those of us wearing the uniform skirt, we found out that going down the fast slide allowed our skirts to pull up to our shoulders. Awkward! Fortunately, there were cute fire fighters at the bottom of the slide to catch us. 

After it was all over, we got debriefed and found out that aside from one woman who twisted her ankle going down the slide, everyone was okay. We got a couple of days off and went on with our careers.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. I am hoping that holds true since I already experienced an evacuation early on in my career that I will have no more ‘excitement’ in the years to come.   Fingers crossed. 



et cetera