Inexperienced cabin crew

Taxiing out for departure, SCCM called the flight deck and advised a pax had been physically sick in the cabin around row 16 and needed time to check on her wellbeing before departure.

The SCCM was attending to the passenger. Three cabin crew had limited experience and the 4th recently on line. A rear crew member called the crew member at the front and asked them to turn on the cabin lights (as the cabin was in darkness prior to departure at night). The forward crew member was unable to simply locate the cabin lights switch on the attendant panel. Unable to turn on the lights on meant the SCCM had to leave the ill passenger and return to the front galley to turn on the lights themself to then go back and assist the passenger.

My concern is new cabin crew are unable to locate simple – yet critical equipment and switches used daily and the experienced cabin crew (only the number one in this case) is doing all the work himself dealing with the passenger, communicating with the flight deck and managing the cabin environment.

This was a simple medical issue, however could very well have disastrous impact given the level of experience in the cabin that day.

Operator Comment

All crew complete initial and conversion training and a number of familiarisation flights prior to becoming part of the operating crew. Training does includes operation of the cabin lighting system contained within the flight attendant panels onboard. The flight attendant panel and lighting is mainly used by the senior crew member so it is possible the crew member had only used this on a small number of occasions prior to this flight.

There are 4 crew members onboard and as such tasks are delegated to each crew member so as to reduce the workload during a medical event. This is all delegated under the guidance of the SCCM. However, flight crew also need to be aware of the surprise and startle effect which can effect cabin crew when they are presented with an inflight event such as a medical. This can reduce reaction times for dealing with an event or task.

A debrief with all crew at the end of the day will ensure effective communication of issues during the flight and will provide an opportunity for crew to learn from mistakes made during events. Crew are encouraged to report events internally where an additional debrief can take place for the crew involved.

Cabin Crew Advisory Board Comment – 

All Cabin Crew receive initial training on how to use the cabin systems such as the forward attendant and the additional attendant panels. This information is also available in the Cabin Crew manuals. When new crew go on their aircraft visit as part of their initial training they would have been shown how to operate the lights at the attendant panels. Also, when the crew operated their first familiarisation flights, they would have had a checklist that probably included cabin lighting, amongst many other things to be covered on the day.

Once the crew member is then online, often the SOP is that the crew complete their checks, sit down, pass on their ‘secure’ to the senior and, once the senior has the ‘secure’ the senior will dim the cabin lights, for landing and take-off.

If you aren’t familiar with how to adjust the cabin lights please review this next time you are on the aircraft. The fleet structure of some operators can vary massively, crew can operate on different types and within those types there can be subtypes, even if the aircraft are all the same type, unless they are all the same vintage then the attendance panels can still vary from aircraft to aircraft. If you haven’t flown on type for a while, take the time to review the location of the cabin light controls and other panels etc that you might not regularly use next time you are onboard.

This report was discussed at both the CHIRP CC advisory board and the CHIRP AT advisory board, some members of the ATAB thought that there was scope for more formal familiarisation training to be in place to give cabin crew regular opportunities to operate all routinely used equipment and panels for this very situation where the SCCM maybe indisposed. Time is always pressing during flights we know, but more experienced crew can also help here by taking inexperienced crew members ‘under their wing’ when possible and refreshing their familiarity with panels and equipment.

An individual is personally responsible for ensuring that they are aware of the aircraft/type/config they are to operate on and, if necessary, refresh themselves via their SOPs/OM etc to avoid any possible confusion that may arise. Crew are onboard should an emergency arise and must be prepared for this to happen at any time. This is even more important for new crew, particularly with aircraft swaps etc that can happen on the day.