The Corporate Flight Attendant & Our History
BY SUSAN C. FRIEDENBERG
The history of business/corporate aviation and how it pertains to the role of the Corporate Flight Attendant/Third Crew Member is an interesting story. It enables one to see the importance of corporate specific training for the third crew member in an industry where our aircraft continuously become larger, travel at higher altitudes and have longer range which translates into the cabin and passengers being professional and discreetly monitored.
The world of corporate aviation came into being and prominence shortly after World War II. The end of the war made available to the civilian market a large supply of military transport aircraft and veteran pilots. As corporate air travel increased, so did the demand for a more business-oriented environment. This environment required that aircraft interiors support the business person by providing anonymity, total comfort and office like amenities. In the early days of business aviation, the trend seemed to be that aviation managers and chief pilots usually used a male flight mechanic/technician in the back of the aircraft. This provided the dual role of a person that could fix the aircraft on the road if there was an aircraft malfunction as well as handling the needs of the passengers during the mission.
At this point in time, there was no real emphasis on elaborate "specialized" food services/trends and culinary expertise. Because the interiors became increasingly detail oriented in order to continually support the customer/client’s needs, so did the need to have a trained third crew member that could accommodate these specialized requests. The galleys and the cabins became more elaborate and extensive in design, technology, in-flight entertainment systems, and electronic/satellite communication systems.
By the 1980’s, it was apparent that the corporate flight attendant/third crew member needed to be "corporate specific" trained for emergency and first aid incidents as well as having culinary and impeccable food service experience. Now the corporate business traveler had privacy, anonymity, a safe, secure and pristine environment to work within, and the ultimate available in-flight amenities.
Corporate aviation provides the passenger with the ability to operate within a non structured time frame that can be changed at any given moment. It is a world of total flexibility, function, and organizational methods implemented to accommodate any business traveler and the mission.
I have been involved in aviation for the last 45 years. I began my aviation career flying for American Airlines in 1970, and left to fly for a supplemental charter company called Capitol Air. While sitting on my jump seat for take off and landing I would notice small jets that resembled a Jaguar or a Lamborghini and they intrigued me. In 1984 Capitol Air filed bankruptcy in the courts and went out of business. I was heartbroken and not at all ready to stop flying, and could not get those gorgeous jets out of my mind! I soon learned that this was an area of aviation called corporate business aviation.
I began my corporate aviation career in 1984 as a contract flight attendant in southern California. There were no training programs for the corporate flight attendant at that time. It seemed like a very elite environment with very little room for error, and I soon learned that this was true. It was 100% different from commercial aviation with the common denominator being "safety first." I quickly learned that the “language” of corporate/business aviation was entirely different. It was a totally different industry.
There was one "corporate specific" emergency and first aid training program at the time. I knew that this training program would assist in making me more marketable as well as professional for this industry. I believed that I already possessed the people and culinary skills that added to the many attributes needed to be successful in this venue of aviation. I wanted to be trained for the specific equipment type that I wished to work on now which appeared to be very different from the commercial heavy equipment that I had previously worked on.
It also appeared that it was up to the individual to innately know all of the skills and job responsibilities needed to work on a corporate jet. It seemed crucial to know the standard operational procedures that were generic to most of the corporate aviation flight departments to do this work perfectly and expeditiously. You only get one chance to make a good first and lasting impression, and that takes place within the first five seconds of meeting someone. I attended training, started marketing myself and began my new career as a Corporate Flight Attendant. I also realized that in order to be called back to do additional contract/freelance flying for a company or get a full time position, there were no mistakes to be made. I was now representing the CEO and the business culture of that company.
In 1995 I became a member of the National Business Aviation Association Flight Attendant Subcommittee. I had now been successfully flying as a contract and full time flight attendant. Because of the business skills that I possessed, and the way that I had approached contract flying, I realized that there was a great deal of information that I could impart to new people that wanted to break into our industry. I taught contract flight attendant skills at the NBAA Flight Attendant Conferences in breakout sessions for three years in a row. It was at this time that someone brought to my attention that no one in the United States was teaching this type of valuable information. I decided to take the information and create a training syllabus. I applied all of this into a teaching format and in 1999 the first Corporate Flight Attendant Training Program was taught in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My training manual was 44 pages. (To date it is over 450 pages and referred to as THEIR AVIATION BIBLE by our graduates!) By the middle of 2000, I had added Long Beach, California as a second training city. We then started conducting In-House Training classes for Business Aviation Flight Departments globally.
Facts About Business Aviation:
1. Business aviation reaches over 5,000 public-use-airports in the U.S., providing communities large and small with fast, flexible, safe, secure and cost efficient access to destinations across the country and globally. America dominates business aviation manufacturing. Half of the general aviation airplanes manufactured in the United States are exported, helping our balance of trade.
2. Business Aviation contributes $150 billion to the US economic output, and employs more then 1.2 million people. (GAMA)
3. Few flights carry executives. 74% are time critical trips by sales, technical and middle management employees. (NBAA – Louis Harris Study)
4. Almost all airline flights go from only 70 major hubs. Even worse, the airlines have abandoned nearly 100 mid-sized cities in just the last year. Only about 350 US communities have scheduled air service; for the remainder, general aviation is the only option for movement of persons or cargo by air.
5. The handful of manufacturers outside the United States implements completion of the aircraft here in America, adding avionics, electronics, automation systems, engines, paint, interiors and other aircraft components manufactured here in the U.S.
Today, this program is an extensive four day training class that covers the skills and tools needed by today's corporate aviation flight attendant. It details the basic standard operating procedures that are utilized by most corporate aviation flight departments globally and fine tunes the abilities of those that have been doing some corporate aviation flying.
It is a strong comprehensive and informative training that has proven to be very successful in educating people and aiding them in finding work within business aviation if they are new to the industry. It addresses the specific marketing strategies that will create success for you within the business aviation industry. This training will teach you how to manage yourself as a business while flying on a contract basis. It provides the students with a thorough understanding of what corporate aviation is, and is not. It is an invaluable training for those who wish to break into corporate aviation.
While conducting a training class, I repeatedly state to my students, "You don't know what you don't know." This statement really is most applicable to the commercial flight attendant that is transitioning over to business aviation. If this is the case, one must "unlearn" everything they have been doing during their commercial aviation careers. It can be a challenging and daunting task for someone that has flown the general public.
This program has produced excellent results. I am proud to say that the people that we have trained that have also attended "corporate specific" emergency and first aid training that have the ability, skills, attitude, and the aptitude to do this type of flying are all flying either full time or contract today. Many are now Chief Flight Attendants and Department Managers and some have gone on to teach egress/safety training!
My pledge to business aviation is to put into the workplace a safety trained, detail oriented, and creative, savvy, educated and professional corporate flight attendant. I want people that wish to have the information and training to be able to have it. None of this information was available when I started flying as a Corporate Flight Attendant 29 years ago. I learned by trial and error and in today's marketplace, there is no time or patience for errors.
People can have their dream of flying become a reality with the proper training and education. As a new corporate flight attendant you are the author of your success in business aviation. Passion, commitment, education, organization, out of the box thinking and excellence are the components that create opportunity and success for this career.