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Generation Y makes up the vast majority of new entry cabin crew today. As a result of this, training departments must keep their training up-to-date and relevant and delivered in such a way as to keep the interest and attention of their students. The long days of sitting in a classroom, listening to an instructor and looking at PowerPoint presentations seem to be on the decrease. Training departments are using the latest technology and training devices, to fully immerse their crews in the reality of their jobs.

Competency-Based TrainingThe area of competency-based training was covered extensively at WATS 2015 earlier this year. Martin Maurino, Safety, Efficiency and Operations Officer at ICAO and Kellie White, Safety and Emergency Procedures, Training Manager, with Emirates, both spoke in-depth on this subject.

ICAO’s Cabin Crew Safety Training Manual (Doc 10002), published in 2014, presents cabin safety training from a competency-based approach. ICAO has developed this approach to cabin crew safety training so crew members may be proficient to perform their duties and responsibilities, and has the goal of establishing an international baseline for cabin crew competencies.

ICAO defines a competency as, “a combination of skills, knowledge and attitudes required to perform a task to the prescribed standard.”

This approach to training is characterized by an emphasis on job performance and the knowledge and skills required to perform on the job. Competency-based training aims to progressively build and integrate knowledge and the skills required.

But why should training departments move to competency-based training? This approach gives training departments a detailed and accurate job/task analysis, it is fully integrated and has outcome-focused training. It provides crew members with competencies to be safe, efficient and highly effective in the performance of their duties. This approach to training means all training carried out is tailored to the operators needs, and any operational issues can be specifically targeted. It is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Training is more scenario-based, using an operators own operational data, and can simulate realistic flight conditions when human error occurs. Scenario-based training also helps with the integration of skills, and the crews perform as a team as opposed to performing as an individual.

Emirates has, over the past few years, developed competency-based training within their cabin crew training department. A three phased approach, to establish this form of training, was introduced over a 12 month period. Phase 1 was SEP competencies, Phase 2 was instructor competencies and Phase 3 was air crew competencies. In all three phases’ skills, attitudes and knowledge were defined. These were to ensure a thorough understanding of the task required to perform to the desired standard. Knowledge has been built progressively over the three year period, and all theory has been practiced in practical scenarios, using a number of training devices. The airline has developed a collaborative learning approach in an open environment, and all simulator scenarios are based on reported on line incidents.

The challenges faced by Emirates when developing this training have been the recruitment of skilled external trainers, managing an increase of practical failures in year one of implementation and also educating the crew community and existing trainers.

But the achievements far outweigh the challenges. There has been a decrease in failure rate of recurrent theory exams and practical assessments from 8% to between 3-5%, measured over a three year period. Practical skills are now consistently measured objectively and there has been improved cabin crew operational performance, to name just a few.

EvolutionOther airlines that are also developing their training methods include SkyWest Airlines, who has been evolving its recurrent training programmes over the last few years.

In 2007 recurrent training consisted of yearly CBTs, a 150-page study packet, two days of recurrent with equipment drills, evacuation drills, PowerPoint and lecture, and a written final exam. In 2010, the training had developed with scenario-based training being introduced, but still had yearly CBTs, only one day of recurrent with equipment drills, evacuation drills, PowerPoint and lectures and paper testing. In 2011 AQP was rolled out which allowed SkyWest to look closely at operational data to see which subjects should be covered in training.

So in 2015, CQ training, as it is now called, comprises of quarterly CBTs, an optional training guide, one day of CQ, one PowerPoint and hands-on testing. Paul Caldwell, Manager of InFlight Training Development (AQP), at SkyWest, and who also spoke at WATS 2015, explained that the benefit of introducing AQP was the end of ‘death by PowerPoint’. It has allowed them to develop more realistic training, and are now able to put crews in scenarios that are driven by line data. The airline has found that this method of training is highly engaging for their flight attendants who enjoy demonstrating that they know how to do the things they do.

The InFlight training department is now also able to identify areas they need to spend more time on and also areas they did better than expected.

Joint recurrent training at SkyWest has also been tailored in the same way. In the early days joint recurrent training was a full day, mostly PowerPoint, with little interaction, and mostly instructor led. As it developed, joint training was reduced to two and a half hours, instructors facilitated discussions and were able to focus on ‘hot’ topics. They also carried out joint scenarios in the cabin trainer.

In 2015 joint training has shifted to using short videos. Operational data is used to select the content of the scenarios and the crews then work together to resolve the problem. The airline has found that the benefits of this new, improved training method can help identify conflicts between flight attendant and pilot procedures. It is a non-threatening environment to ask questions and also gives pilots a better understanding of what flight attendants do in the cabin.

New ThreatsA recent news item from BALPA (British Airline Pilots’ Association) proposes that UK pilots are asking airlines to advise passengers to carry laptops, phones, tablets, e-books and cameras with lithium batteries safely in the aircraft cabin to cut the risk of fires in the luggage hold. BALPA is encouraging airlines and regulators to look at what steps they could take to ensure devices powered by lithium batteries are only carried in the aircraft cabin, where a build-up of gases or fire can be tackled more easily.

Although lithium batteries are very safe, their high energy levels mean they can pose a fire risk if damaged. Between March 1991 and July 2013, 135 air incidents involving batteries were recorded by the FAA. 61 of these events were related to lithium batteries. In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of PEDs that have lithium batteries as their power source.

On a typical flight, an aircraft carrying 100 passengers could have more than 500 lithium batteries on board, including devices such as laptop computers, tablet devices, mobile phones, cameras, electronic watches, e-readers, electronic flight bags etc. In 2010, a passenger seat caught fire on board an Air France Boeing B777 over the Atlantic. The fire was successfully extinguished and there were no injuries to passengers or crew. Subsequent investigation found a passenger’s spare lithium battery had fallen down the side of the seat which was then crushed as the seat was reclined, causing the battery to ignite.

Because of this potentially serious fire hazard, which can also include explosion, smoke and fumes, it is essential that cabin crew are trained to deal with this very specific type of incident.

A Specialist Paper published in 2014 by the Royal Aeronautical Society entitled “Smoke, Fire and Fumes in Transport Aircraft (SAFITA) Part 2: Training” provides operators and training organisations with guidance on how to comply, as a minimum, with regulatory requirements and also provides references to relevant advisory material which may assist in the provision of aircrew fire and smoke training. It states that it is essential that aircraft crew are trained to deal with lithium battery fires.

ICAO has issued ‘Emergency Response Guidance for Aircraft Incidents Involving Dangerous Goods’ which includes incidents involving PED fires with lithium battery cells. SAFITA Part 2 states that although the guidance from ICAO stresses the importance of not moving a PED which is, or has been involved in a fire, it would be prudent to have an alternative procedure to deal with such an event if it occurs in or close to the flight crew compartment. ‘Containment devices are now available on the market that may reduce the risk associated with a PED fire. Considering the proliferation of lithium battery powered devices being carried on board aircraft, the industry should consider evaluating the suitability of such devices for managing PED fires in-flight.’

Christine Stronock, director Cabin Crew Training and Operations at Airbus spoke at EATS (European Airline Training Symposium) last year in Berlin on the development of cabin crew procedures for lithium battery fires. Airbus has developed cabin crew procedures following the identification of risk. These procedures are being continually evolved.

In August 2011, Airbus included a generic “Guidelines on Lithium Battery Fires” in the Cabin Crew Operating Manual (CCOM) for A320 Family, A330/A340 Family and A380 aircraft. Some instructions were also included in the “Getting to Grips” for aircraft without a CCOM. Further procedural changes were included in the CCOM from Q1 2014. This included ‘consider any fire in an overhead storage compartment (OHSC) is a potential lithium battery fire’ and ‘remove and secure device that has caught fire’.

In 2015 a revised passenger seat smoke/fire procedure was introduced for all aircraft. Fighting a lithium battery fire is a whole crew responsibility and Airbus has ensured that its flight crew procedures interlink with their cabin crew procedure.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has produced a series of videos which highlight the potential fire risks to aircraft posed by the improper carriage of lithium batteries. The videos were produced in association with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and target key airline and airport staff, including cabin crew.

Available online, the videos are intended to be used to supplement existing dangerous goods training programmes. The videos highlight different scenarios by recreating real-life situations and the correct procedures for dealing with those situations are demonstrated in detail.

These developments and others will continue to improve cabin crew training and continue the move away from ‘traditional’ learning methods.


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