‘I need a backup’, Yanni shouts while running towards seat 47D with the fire extinguisher in his right and the respirator in his left hand. ‘I’m your backup,’ I am yelling back and grab my equipment. Now, every second counts and decides about life and death.
Since three weeks I am attending the Aviation College in east of Dubai. For a total of eight weeks, I will be trained here on the two types of aircrafts, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 and will get ready for my new career on board. Today is the last day of my intense 13-days SEP training about safety and emergency procedures on board.
The early bird catches the worm
It is not even sunrise yet when me and my classmates are already waiting in front of the aircraft simulator. Ready to pass the daily assessments about the topics we learnt the day before. When I think about it; not too long time, 3AM used to be the time when I was sleeping firmly during the week or had the first glance on the watch on weekends. Ever since, I need to set three alarms (one on each side of the bed and one as a backup on my phone) to make sure that I don’t oversleep. Unbelievable how quickly I mutated to an early bird and how much I appreciate the true effect of a black coffee.
A rapid decompression over San Francisco and a fire alarm in business class
Dropping oxygen masks, dense smoke inside the cabin, flashing warning signals or severe turbulence; There is in fact no situation that the total of 17 aircraft simulators in the college facilities cannot reproduce. What might sound like a combination of recreational park and ‘adventure rooms’ means for us trainees more stress than fun. It is not easy to keep a cool head in case of an emergency. When you are supposed to apply the thrills instead of freaking out or freeze. On the other hand, it is great to get the opportunity to go through such scenarios in a safe and learnable environment. It definitely strengthens your self-confidence and gives you the needed space to make mistakes and to learn from them.
Amateur firefighters in action
One of the scenarios today is to deal with a seat fire in the business class. It is truly entertaining, when some inexperienced crew members try to extinguish a fire or evacuate an aeroplane. Just for giving you an example;
Ebony, from Melbourne, was calling the captain to inform him about a fire we had on board. The conversation between her and us, the firefighters, was the following:
Ebony: ‘Guys, how is the fire going?’
Me: – still dealing with the fire –
Yanni: ‘Well, it’s still on …!’
Ebony: ‘Captain, it’s still on!’
In addition to the practical exercises, there is also a lot to learn about the aircrafts itself. For almost two weeks, I spend my free time reading manuals and learning terms by heart. For example, a few days ago, we had a theoretical exam about emergency equipment and its correct quantity as well as its location in the cabin of the Airbus A380. Could be a piece of cake if there were not 20 different items, found on 10 stations on the main deck and six stations on the upper deck. Each of them with an uneven quantity. Not to mention that you have to do the same task for the Boeing, too…
Flying – seen from a different perspective
SEP is probably the most intense and difficult part of the training. But the experiences which I got from this training have fundamentally changed my knowledge and view about aviation and the job.