What Cabin Crew Initiation Is Really Like : Part I

You will never forget it.

Doesn't matter if you are a Pilot or a Cabin Crew: during your first day on board, you can't be prepared for everything around you, that's a matter of fact.

They know it, and they are likely to milk the situation. But they who? What are you talking about?

The Supernumerary Jokes

Truth be told, there will always be a first day on the job experience, but first day on the job in the sky comes with initiation pranks from another atmosphere. My advice to new Crew: just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Quickly new Crew will learn the mood of the operating Crew (pilots included) by what level of initiation prank is thrown your way. Even if you watch a few seasons of Survivor you still wouldn't be prepared sufficiently.

Now, by aviation law, the supernumeraries are your very first few flights and until you have survived these flights you are known as "Supi Crew". You act as an observer. You will practice what you have studied in your hard training course in which drills and procedures in case of emergency are covered and practiced. You will have safety, security and medical questions fired at you like a machine gun and a journal you will have to get signed off. You will have passengers ask questions that you have no idea the answers to and will board with expectations as high as the level you are flying at. So just to lighten the mood, or to tip you off cloud nine, a Supi joke is thrown into the cyclone of a first day.

After 6 weeks of training we are confident to handle all cases of emergency except the supernumerary jokes.

We can't spill all of the beans, but here you have the best four of them according to aviation legends, stories and confessions. We the victims would like to remain anonymous (ops...), because we are likely to become perpetrators.

1. Sugar Water Rain

It's an easy one. You sit at your station before landing. As soon as the aircraft lands, there is a bump (even the best pilot's landing will always have a bump as the tyres hit the runway) and now you are completely wet. Well, they have put a glass of water with sugar powder in a place in the jumpseat over your head, a place you never had any idea even existed. When the bump comes, it is raining all over you and your first day... ha ha ha...

2. The Bag Full of Oxygen

In flight. Service done, passengers quiet. A call from the flight deck to the Cabin.

Captain - "Call me... what's his name again?"

Supervisor - "Let me check... ehm, Claudio"


- "Claudio, the Captain wants you at the inter-phone"

Terror. How come? What's wrong? Me? Why?

You pick up.

One long second before saying just - "Captain..."

- "Claudio, right?"

- "Yes"

- "All good?"

- "Yes, I am good" (you are damn not)

- "I need you to do something for me, will you?." - "GASP" - "We need to collect some oxygen from the cabin because of the 'inter...coolatrombulplica...ation system'. You have to use a bag, go to the back galley, fill it with oxygen... -are you following me-??"

- "Yes"

- "...okay, once full, make sure it contains as much as oxygen as possible and give it to the supervisor. Thank you"

You don't really doubt the pilot's word. Pale and stressed you go and collect a bag, figuring out how the heck you can possibly fill the bag with... air (not blowing in it). I walk down the cabin with the bag open above my head collecting the air.

As soon as you reach the Crew in the back galley with your bag they're already laughing like crazy. They saw you, in the back galley of a 737, filling up a bag with... air! Forcing it using your hand as you were ploughing it in. Then you realize.... You are seriously trying to collect air.

3. The Dance of the Monkey.

Again with the kind cooperation of the pilot initiating the request. This time you are told that they have to check on the normal operation of the landing gear but somehow they are experiencing some problems.

- "Claudio, we are busy right now, but it's simple task, can you do it?"

- "...ehm... yes"

- "We need you to position in the middle of the cabin and stand there. Row 14. Then you need to jump 5 times and then another 5 times. So that, if the landing gear is blocked up, it will eventually unblock"

No questions, no doubts, no aviation knowledge counts. No common sense. For example thinking how insane must be to deploy the undercarriage at cruising altitude, and why is this delicate task for you?

Blank minded, you just go.

As soon as you start jumping, thinking of being the hero of the day, passengers and crew are holding their tummies. When you think it couldn't get any worse realizing you look like a dancing monkey and it was a joke, the supervisor made some funny announcement by interphone and made the flight more entertaining for everybody, but you.

4. The Cursed Life Jacket

Another crucial phase of your first flight is the Safety Demonstration. Having all these people just looking at you feels like you are a lead actor on stage. The problem is to look confident and to coordinate the movements with the announcement and with the other crew.

The pieces of equipment are typically the landing card, a seat belt, the oxygen mask and the life jacket. The latter is the one that worries you because you have to wear it and secure it with the little strap (at the first attempt possibly).

Other Cabin Crew members have placed the equipment for you at your demonstration location, as they are trying to help.

You start your demo and everything seems to go fairly well, the seat belt is easy, the oxygen too, and when it comes to draw the lifejacket, you realize that damn thing doesn't want to cooperate. Looks like it's stuck, the voice in the cabin goes on and your colleagues are already donning it. What the heck is happening? You just want to disappear.

The life jacket is tied to a seat by the strap. You blush like a tomato, try to untie it and finally conclude your demo.

......Initiation complete!

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