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Direct view for cabin crew members

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Direct view for cabin crew members
Lauren Thomas, Rebecca Wilson, Ita Kelleher
Human Factors Group
School of Engineering
Cranfield University
Regulatory requirements
The regulatory authorities require that each seat located in the
passenger compartment designated for use by cabin crew
members provides an unobstructed view of the cabin area for
which that crew member is responsible.
Direct view means “visual contact with the cabin main
area/aisles which enables the flight attendant to be made aware
of passenger needs relative to safety when the flight attendant is
seated” (FAA, 1994).
Advisory material
Guidance material provided by the FAA indicates that although
the primary requirement is to ensure that the crew are in close
proximity to an exit “every practical effort should be made to
eliminate obstructions to direct view”.
Mirrors and other such devices are only acceptable where
proximity to an exit takes precedence over direct view. Video
systems are only acceptable where the level of conspicuity
provided is equivalent to that which would be obtained with a
direct line of sight.
Security & emergency considerations
Clearly, proximity to an exit is a requirement for cabin crew, who
need to be at their stations in the event of an emergency.
However, the crew also need to be able to supervise passenger
preparation for an evacuation.
At Manchester in 1985, “the inability of the forward crew
members to monitor conditions in the cabin from their takeoff
and landing positions was unsatisfactory” (King, 1989). The view
into the cabin was restricted by the galley bulkhead.
Richard Reid (the “shoe-bomber”) was only thwarted in his effort
to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes when a cabin crew
member saw him trying to light the explosives.
Operational definition
In practice, direct view requirements are assessed by a paper
and pencil exercise in which lines of sight are plotted on the
proposed cabin configuration.
Using this method, the cabin crew member’s height is assumed
to be between 5’2” and 6’3”, and the measurement is taken from
4.7” forward of the crew seat. Head movement is assumed to be
8.5” either side, and the line of sight is assumed to be limited
160 feet.
Using these guidelines, 80% of passenger seats must be visible
in part, including 50% within each zone or cabin area.
Enhancing direct view
Additional means may be utilised to enhance direct view:-
Design change: including change of design or function of
bulkheads or partitions, including use of transparent panels,
shutters, curtains or flaps.
Provision of an additional crew member seat: not always viable if
this is done purely to enhance direct view.
Use of mirrors and similar devices: only permitted where one of
the above two options is not feasible.
Aim of study
The aim of the study was to investigate situations in which crew
members had benefited from direct view, situations in which
direct view was less than optimal, and to consider cabin crew
suggestions for improving their monitoring of passengers.
A structured checklist of topics was used so that researchers
could ensure that all areas of interest were covered. This
included: take-off and landing (what crew are looking/listening
for), problems with direct view, proposed solutions and
innovations, and implications for future aircraft types.
The method involved qualitative focus groups and interviews
with cabin crew from a number of UK airlines. All interviews were
recorded in confidence, and later transcribed and content
analysed to identify main themes and concerns.
Cabin crew included in the study covered Boeing 737, Boeing
747, Boeing 767, Airbus 319, Airbus 320, and Airbus 340.
In total, 37 crew contributed, with experience ranging from
between 2 and 29 years.
Seven focus groups of between 2 and 8 crew members, with one
crew member contributing by letter.
Most crew said initially that they did not have a problem with
direct view: and then went to catalogue situations when it had
been an issue.
In total, seven themes were evident within the data:
 Monitoring the aircraft
 Monitoring the passengers
 Security
 Incidents and accidents
 Direct view obstructions
 Mirrors, transparent bulkheads, and video cameras
 Future innovations.
Monitoring the aircraft
“I’m looking for… listening to unusual noises… unusual smells.
Maybe the irregularity of the speed… you look for that…
everything is secure in the cabin… things like that are very
important at this stage… You get to recognise noises, it comes
with time… anything you don’t recognise, you report it straight
Some cabin crew reported engaging in a “thirty-second review”,
where crew are mentally rehearsing the actions they would take
and the commands they would use in the event that something
untoward should occur.
Monitoring the passengers
The [senior crew member] makes a PA to say �cabin
crewmembers take your seats for takeoff or landing’. They will
then phone the flight deck and say �cabin ready’, and then,
depending on what aircraft, press a �cabin ready’ button, so all
crewmembers should be seated at that time. Then, when takeoff
is imminent, the captain will flash the… no smoking signs twice”
It appears that passengers do not always appreciate the
meaning of such announcements and communications. The only
time that crew members are permitted to leave their seats during
the critical phases of flight is to carry out safety related duties.
Infrequent fliers
One crew member reported a situation where the a/c was on
final approach in Orlando… the captain announced that
Disneyland was visible through windows on the left hand side…
and half of the passengers on the right hand side moved from
their seats to go and look.
It appears that novice passengers in particular do not know that
crew can only leave their seats to undertake safety related
Novice flyers have been reported ringing call bells for sweets, to
ask to use the toilets, or to ask crew to reach something from the
overhead lockers.
Frequent fliers
“Businessmen are the worst, they are the worst. Because they
know it all…. They don’t know that aircraft change all the time.
They get quite complacent with it and think they know it all”.
Businessmen were also reported as being the worst offenders in
using mobile phones… crew reported trying to embarrass such
passengers with a PA announcement if they heard the mobile
phone being used.
Passengers were more likely to be seen if they stood up… if
people were using mobile phones they were more likely to be
heard than seen.
Nervous passengers
As with infrequent fliers, nervous passengers were also reported
as behaving in a sometimes inappropriate manner… although
the crew tended to have more sympathy with such passengers.
Nervous passengers seemed to only want reassurance and
guidance from the crew, perhaps with regards to how normal the
noises are.
However, the crew are sometimes conscious that the bulkheads
may muffle their commands, and that without eye contact,
communication can be reduced.
Post 9/11, cabin crew felt that passengers could be a powerful
ally in the event of a threat to security.
Many crew thought this was just as well, since they would have a
limited view of what was happening in the cabin during takeoff
and landing.
This was reported as the one and only situation where crew
would leave their seats at a critical phase of flight:
“If they’re getting up and running, if you can’t see, if you can’t
see until they get past the galley… that’s when you get off your
Incidents and accidents
None of the cabin crew interviewed for this study said that they
had experienced serious incidents or accidents.
However, there were medical incidents and emergencies that
crew spoke about.
In one situation, a call bell was rung and the crew member could
just make out someone slumped in a seat… the passenger had
had a heart attack, but the crew members could not assist until
the a/c had landed.
Direct view obstructions
There appeared to be a number of obstructions to direct view,
including fittings and fixtures such as wardrobes, galleys and
bulkheads, and toilets.
Crew were conscious that little could be done about some of
these obstructions, since they were fixed, or were used to store
emergency & medical equipment in standardised locations. They
reported hoping that other crewmembers would be able to
supervise passengers beyond such obstructions.
In flight, divisions between classes did not create such a
problem, as more crew were available in these cabins to provide
a higher level of service.
Mirrors were reported as being widely fitted, to allow cabin crew
to see and supervise passengers behind them.
There were mixed reactions to using these, because some crew
thought that they were fitted in the wrong places, were too small,
not angled correctly, or not clean. In some cases, so little detail
was visible that the mirrors were almost useless.
It was reported that no pre-flight checks are required to ensure
that the crew can use the mirrors that are fitted. It would appear
that some of these issues could be rectified by surveying the
fleet for such problems, and requiring a pre-flight check.
Transparent bulkheads
Transparent bulkheads were reported on only one a/c type within
this study. However, transparent bulkheads were thought to be a
good solution to split classes and cabin areas/zones.
Cabin crew generally thought that transparent bulkheads were,
in theory, a good idea to enhance direct view, although some of
the practical issues involved would make this difficult to
implement: toilets, emergency equipment etc.
One crew member suggested that such fixtures and fittings could
be “lifted” into the cabin from below once takeoff had been
Video cameras
None of the cabin crew had any experience of using video
cameras to enhance direct view.
Some of the crew suggested that video cameras and CCTV
could be useful for situations such as terrorism and disruptive
passengers, but felt that it was a significant investment when the
technology might be used only rarely.
In addition, there was the issue of reliability: “I think you’re better
off with mirrors to be honest, because equipment goes down, it
goes wrong”
Future innovations
Some suggestions were given in jest, and some in earnest:
“No passengers”
“The more help you have, the more hands, the easier it is”.
Sideward facing crew seats were suggested as a future
possibility, since they would allow supervision of passengers and
proximity to the door.
However, they would need to be crashworthy, since active &
assertive crew are vital in evacuation situations, and they would
also need to retract to avoid obstructing assist/escape space.
The primary preference for maintaining and enhancing direct
view is design change, followed by additional crew seats, and
then finally the use of mirrors.
In practice, the use of mirrors appears to be widespread,
although guidance material suggests that they should be used
as a last resort.
Mirrors were often reported as being dirty, not angled correctly, in
the wrong places, or too small to provide sufficient detail.
However, because this work was qualitative, there is no
indication of how widespread these problems are.
Conclusions (2)
Airlines could conduct survey research to establish the extent of
the problem, either sending out cabin crew questionnaires or
conducting a review of a/c types within the fleet, supported by
cabin crew.
A simple solution would be to review the mirrors currently fitted,
and assess whether they are correctly angled, regularly cleaned,
and large enough to provide visual detail.
In addition, a “mirror check” could be included in the pre-flight
requirements, so that cabin crew are required to check before
takeoff. This is a requirement when you get into a car – so why
not check visibility when your crew board an a/c?
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