This morning I signed into our company website via a portal to check on some flights to commute to work, and was surprised by a small box that was congratulating me on 11yrs of flying.
It really is hard to believe that 11 yrs has gone by, especially of all of all the changes that have happened in the aviation industry. I still remember the day I got my invite to an Interview down in Dallas. They provided me with a round-trip ticket to the interview, along with instructions on where to pick up the van to the Training Center. I'm amazed that after all these years, I can still remember what I was wearing, and remember a couple of the people who were in the interview...one who ended up being in my Training Class, and later became based together in LaGuardia.
The interview was broken up in sections. We went in as a 'Group' interview of five to answer questions, then we had a separate interview one-on-one. It was at this time the Recruiter would either give you a letter of intent, or 'thank-you' for your time. IF you were lucky enough for the next round, you were taken to the Medical Center for a physical to ensure you would pass the tests. The biggest part I remember is having a hearing test that made sure you could hear air leaks on the plane. (funny how being on certain aircraft for a period of time, you become accustomed to the certain noises the plane makes)
Either way, I was fortunate enough to have gotten a letter of intend to be hired at my airline. I was thrilled and nervous. We were told not to quit our jobs until we actually got a letter with a start date....however, I was so ready for a change, that when I got back to my job, I actually gave my 6wk notice. Thankfully my letter for initial new-hire class came quickly and the date of the job was right in line of when I would finish my other job.
Now for the hard part. Six full weeks learning Emergency Procedures; Emergency Drills, Evacuate different types of aircraft, learn where all the emergency equipment was on the each aircraft type, and lastly, how to deal with passengers.
Not knowing what to expect, I can assure you that it truly was an eye-opening experience. After marching with a professional Drum & Bugle Corps, and going through military basic training, I can honestly say that the training we had to endure was much harder, and more stressful than I had expected.
I believe the hardest part was learning the terminology of where to find the Emergency Equipment. Places like: Fwd Entry Area S/S, LH Side Doghouse Aft F/C, RH Side Bulkhead Aft M/C, LH Side Doghouse FWD of Aft Lav, Fwd Entry Area SS Aisleside, Last RH Side OHB M/C, etc.
We also had to learn how to do Planned Emergency Checklists and know that they were to be done "Step by Step in Numerical Order, Regardless of Time Available". Learn Evacuation Commands for each window exit, door exit, and aircraft type: "Heads Down, Stay Down", "Unfasten Seatbelts, Come This Way" "Don't Take Anything With You" "YOU-YOU, Stay at the Bottom", Pull the People Off".
We had to go through basic CPR classes to learn what to do in case someone stops breathing, or learn what happens when someone is choking on food. We never even thought about what happens if someone hands you a baby in-flight that is not breathing! This was pretty difficult as hand placement and/or finger placement is slightly different between age-groups. You don't want to press to hard on an infant vs how far you press on and adult.
Once we started to get the basics down, classmates were given actual assignments as 'working' flight attendants on the simulators. The majority of the class would board the plane through the boarding door as passengers, and sit in assigned seats as passengers regularly do in the real world. The Flight Attendants actually working the simulated 'flight' would be doing their actual assignments as they would on the real plane. Of course, back in 2000, we still had blankets and magazines to hand out to those passengers sitting in 'coach' during the boarding process. Since times have changed, we're now looking who may be a potential hijacker or who may be our able bodied assistant in case something were to happen in-flight.
I remember when my simulated flight was to happen, we were learning about the Boeing 757 aircraft. The time that we Flight Attendants were to leave the classroom and head to the simulator, we found out that the then CEO Don Carty was having a meeting at the theater near the trainers, so the 'catering' was delayed as the lobby was going to be full of some high ranking officials. So, our flight was 'delayed' due to a 'mechanical' until the CEO meeting was underway and the lobby was cleared.
The class was finally allowed to board the plane, and we started our process as if we were actually working the flight.
When the working flight attendants were doing their duties, the rest of the class was studying their manuals and taking notes on how we were performing our duties.
We had to do a full beverage service, followed by a meal-beverage service, then a pick-up service. Everything in the simulators were in full working order just as they would be on the aircraft. This allowed us the opportunity to learn how everything worked out in the field.
Each week, we were tested on the aircraft we learned that week. If I remember, we first learned the MD-80 & B727, then the B737, the B757, and finally the B767. Depending on what base you were assigned to, you would then stay an extra day and learn the F-100. It wasn't until later I would get my qualifcations for the A300 and B777. However, due to the economic down-turn, the F-100, B727, and the A300 have all been retired from American Airlines fleet.
Even though it's been a long struggle the past 11yrs, I'm truly honored to be part of an elite group of people. Not many people can actually call themselves a Flight Attendant. I'm not only a Flight Attendant, I'm an International Purser Flight Attendant for one of the world's top airlines.