27th March 2024

Cabin crew training

Initial Report

I have genuine concerns about some crew members’ knowledge when it comes to training. Mainly for recurrent training. We use a system of revision banks, which is essentially a bank of questions that everyone has access to and enables them to revise from. When it comes to the exam on recurrent training a selection of questions are pulled from these revision banks for the exam. So in theory they’ve gone through every single question in the bank of questions beforehand and when it comes to the classroom it’s a case of picking out the right word that stands out. This then promotes a culture of using said revision banks to revise from and not the necessary manuals to execute the job confidently as there is no incentive to read the manual when people can use revision banks which are the actual exams. This then in turn creates the wrong learning culture. Granted, it is a refresher. But it seems to have gone from a regimented environment of reading the manual and writing/drills/location diagrams etc to a free-for-all on a multi-choice exam to which everyone has access to. I’m not saying it needs to be how it was, but it’s gone too far the other way where now people don’t attempt to read the SEP manual and use revision banks as the main point of revision and then generally people achieve 100% in exams due to this.

When crew do fail, it is even more concerning when they have had access to revision materials such as revision banks beforehand and still fail. Perhaps revision banks are acceptable but not to replicate the actual exam papers and select a random amount/selection from such aids? People become so focussed on them which cover a small amount of the associated manuals but not refreshing on all knowledge. It almost seems like a quick fix and people revise in this way without actually retaining the information because they just look for the right word or keyline in the choice of answers. This then begs the question that if something were to happen onboard what would they do?

Company Comment

The reporter raises an interesting and important point around the psychology and effectiveness of training.  The operator changed its strategy several years ago after feedback showed cabin crew were nervous about the annual recurrent training event.  Their entire focus was on passing the exams.  The exams were old fashioned written papers which required the delegates to precisely answer the wording in the manuals.    This led to a behaviour that instructors would deliver training focused on passing the exams and the delegates would just remember those bits.  The wider purpose of the day was lost.  Furthermore, the whole class was given the same or similar questions, which were then circulated.

We want to drive a joint pilot/cabin crew training day that allowed delegates to focus on developing their skills and learning from group facilitation.  We want them to leave not just with a pass, but to take safety and CRM “to the aircraft”.  The intent is to make the training day a professional-to-professional event, in style more like a conference or workshop than a school class.  So, in conjunction with the authority, it was decided to publish the entire question bank to allow revision prior to the event.  On the day, no one person receives the same exam.  Each delegate is pushed a random selection electronically to their electronic device.

Cognitively, revising by self-testing is for most people more effective than simply reading a manual.  Forcing the brain to retrieve information builds pathways to make subsequent retention easier.  That is why Computer Based Training generally has questions at the end to test understanding and reinforce the learning.

Whilst there are differing opinions as to the efficacy, evidence appears to show that this approach has not unacceptably reduced knowledge, although the operator does accept the industry wide problem that generation Z does not like rote learning.

Let’s examine safety incidents for which crew error is the primary cause, for example, inadvertent slide deployment.  Crew interviewed after these events can invariably recount the correct procedure and process – so applied knowledge is not the problem.  Normally the problem is either inattention (rare), fatigue (sometimes), distraction (common) combined with another simultaneous task that should have been given a lower priority (very common).

If we look at safety incidents that are not crew errors (e.g.  oven fires, disruptive passengers, medical emergencies, etc…), these are generally well handled using a mixture of knowledge, CRM and reference to the Cabin Crew Quick Reference material which is held on each crew members iPad.  This leads us to conclude that our training events are effective and focussed correctly on competency rather than just raw knowledge.  All the operator’s cabin safety instructors are also qualified CRM instructors.

The operator will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the training approach, but current evidence suggests that on balance this is the right strategy. Crew are also encouraged to report any concerns or hazards via our safety reporting system. Reports are treated confidentially but if they wish to protect their identity further they have the ability to submit anonymous reports.

CAA Comment

Training is intended to provide a benefit to those attending that they can apply in the operational environment.  In making this comment, the number of questions in the question bank is not known, however, it should be such that it would make it very difficult for trainees to effectively remember each question.

CHIRP Comment

A crew member has the responsibility of maintaining their knowledge base which should be updated regularly rather than just once a year when preparing for Recurrent training. Crew members undergo evaluations all year round during pre-flight briefings, line checks, and/or onboard assessments. Assessments during recurrent training go beyond the formal test, over these two or three days there will be several opportunities for learning and evaluation, as well as practical equipment handling, competency-based training, and/or scenarios.