Taking crew qualifications seriously

Sorry to go on about what Flybe has been doing recently, but actually it’s important to the UK airline industry, and other European carriers could learn a trick or two as well.

Europe’s largest regional carrier has just finished training 21 cabin crew, and the airline has won recognition under the UK’s national vocational qualifications system for the professional skills they have learned.

So what?

Surely that makes their skills transferable to other carriers who then wouldn’t have to train them except in type differences?


It doesn’t seem to bother Flybe that Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, who requires his cabin crew to pay for their own training and uniforms, might see this as a gift.

Flybe’s director of safety, quality and training Simon Witts says it’s good for cabin crew morale to have their professional skills recognised and increases their pride in what they do. If he’s right, I don’t see many of them jumping ship to a carrier with a somewhat different relationship with its onboard crews.

Good cabin crew need a wide array of skills: first class communication for everything from customer care to emergency drills; the use of emergency equipment; first aid skills to levels close to those required of a paramedic; managing onboard equipment from firefighting kit to portable oxygen units; health and safety practises in an aircraft environment; security procedures; hygeine; and finally customer service and the galley.

Meanwhile Flybe is taking on engineering apprentices who will, after their time at college and working in the airline’s hangars, start at about £30,000 a year as 21-year-old licensed aircraft engineers. Before the LAE was just a licence, if a respected one. This course will be modular with academic recognition for professional skills gained.

It’s much the same, at present, to have a pilot licence. The licence is respected, but the skills and knowledge gained in order to obtain one are not recognised in the UK as academic or professional modules, or even collectively as a degree, or a degree equivalent. The learning list is longer than that for cabin crew: the rules of the air; aerodynamics; aircraft systems; aircraft engines; navigation; aviation meteorology; radio telephony; air traffic control, crew resource management, and the effects of the aviation environment on human physiology. And all of those require an underlying good general education, especially in the sciences.

At present, institutions like London’s City University run specialist courses like a BSc in Air Transport Operations, which bolts a pilot licence onto a degree course, preparing a student well for a career as a management pilot.

Meanwhile the learning and skills components of the pilot licence courses taken at flight training organisations are not, at present, recognised as transferable skills. Flybe’s Witts says the company is looking at the possibility of changing this situation, maybe as it works with Flight Training Europe and the Civil Aviation Authority to construct the UK’s first multic-crew pilot licence (MPL) course starting in February. Flybe has already been designated a qualifications awarding body, so it could bring in some seriously positive changes for the way in which pilot qualifications are gained and viewed. 



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2 Responses to Taking crew qualifications seriously

  1. Stephan Wilkinson 11 October, 2008 at 2:12 am #

    Cabin crew might have first-aid skills close to those of an EMT (emergency medical technician), which I frankly doubt, but there’s no way on earth that they have skills “close to those of a paramedic.” Paramedics spend several intensive years learning their trade (I’m an ordinary BLS EMS volunteer in New York), and to say flight attendants come close to their skills is like saying they’re “almost pilots.”

    Stephan Wilkinson

  2. Gerald Davies 3 April, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    I am glad that we are approaching an international qualification for airline pilots. However, with pilots now locked behind the flight deck door and with drop down screens giving pax the Flight Information, on some trips there is such an onimous silence from the flight deck that sometimes it feels like an automatic flight. What about the Cabin Crew/Flight Attendants. Their responsibility for passengers, their safety and welfare has increased enormously and will continue to increase. Where is the International Licence and Qualifications for them?