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New Horizons

Recognizing Flight Attendants as Trained Professionals

Cabin crewmembers are part of a team that ensures safety, as well as excellent service.

Susan C. Friedenberg laughs when recalling how close she came to giving up on what has been a storied career as a professional flight attendant and training consultant. It was 1970, and she was just four weeks into her initial training for a large airline.

“I was a hippie,” she explained. “I told my parents I was quitting. My mother replied, ‘We already bought tickets for your graduation. You’re not quitting.’ To this day, I still thank her!”

That led to 15 years at the airlines, followed by more than three decades as a business aviation flight attendant.

Upon making that transition she soon realized how lax emergency training requirements were for business aviation flight attendants at the time. Friedenberg actively sought training on her own and ultimately formed her own training company, Corporate Flight Attendant Training.

Friedenberg has seen perceptions of business aviation flight attendants positively evolve over the years, but she also believes there’s more to be done so that these professionals are considered vital crew members.

While her 450-page training program encompasses all aspects of the role, egress training remains at the forefront of her safety priorities.

“You’re usually the only crew member in a business jet cabin,” she noted. “You must know how to lift a hefty pilot or passenger out of their seat, on your own, and evacuate them off the airplane.”

Friedenberg has seen perceptions of business aviation flight attendants positively evolve over the years, but she also believes there’s more to be done so that these professionals are considered vital crew members, “and not simply cabin servers or another passenger.

“The FAA must mandate that any aircraft over 20,500 pounds with a seating capacity of 8-9 people have a trained flight attendant on board,” Friedenberg declared. “Why is there an AED [automated external defibrillator] on board if no one in the cabin knows how to use it? Someone going into cardiac arrest can’t defib themselves!”

Fostering effective communication among all crew members is another important step in the process of elevating flight attendants. “They are a team of three,” Friedenberg said, “and such complete and open communication among the flight crew team is reflective of the entire flight department.”

SUSAN C. FRIEDENBERG has worked as a professional flight attendant her entire career. Earlier this year, she was recognized for her contributions to the industry with the AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award as part of the publication’s Women in Aviation Campaign.

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