The Cabin Crew

The role of a “Flight Assistant” is derived from a similar position on ships or passenger trains. It is known that the first Flight Attendant in early civil transport aviation was German citizen Heinrich Kubis in 1912 aboard theDELAG Zeppelin LZ 10 Schwaben, Kubis.

The origin of this helper or flight attendant is not very certain before 1912, some history texts claim that its origin is from the middle of the First World War (WWI) and at that time they were called “Courier“.

The “Courier” initially delivered messages between the battlefields, and later they were designated to accompany pilots in military aircraft and take care of military mail and parcels between the different commands in Europe.

Thus the title of “Courier” was retained in early commercial passenger aviation and was assigned to persons who assisted passengers in flight, in addition to reloading supplies into the aircraft, and supervising that baggage, mail, and cargo was properly loaded and unloaded.

What is a verifiable fact is that in the early 1920’s these “Couriers” were the children of businessmen who had financed the airlines, and their attention was focused on keeping the passenger happy and comfortable so that the business would prosper.

By the late 1920’s, because of the work the “Couriers” did in serving in-flight beverages and meals, passengers began to call them “Air Steward“, “Courier Boy” and even “Flight Waiter“.

These flight attendants worked until the collapse of the stock market in the mid-1920s due to cost-cutting, and during those years in addition to their job of assisting the captain of the aircraft in keeping the flight safe, the responsibility of attending to the needs of the passengers was credited to the co-pilot.

In the early 1930s, with the improvement in the passenger air travel business, airlines began to reevaluate the responsibilities of attending to the needs of passengers more consistently and efficiently, and Western Air was the first to hire male Flight Stewards “Flight Stewards”, o Stewards”.

Within months of this event a young nurse from Iowa, Miss Ellen Church convinced Mr. Steve Stimpson to hire female nurses as Flight Stewards as they would be ideal candidates as they could better care for passengers who became airsick and would provide reassurance to help calm the public’s fear of flying.

So it was that in May 1930 Boeing Air Transport hired Ellen as chief stewardess, who recruited seven other nurses for a three-month probationary period, establishing themselves in history as the first Flight Stewardesses.

Part of the Flight Stewardesses’ job was to take tickets, serve food, clean the interior of the plane, bolt down loose seats, fuel the plane, and sometimes help the pilots push the plane into the hangar, all the while smiling and giving any attention to the needs of the passengers and the flight crew.  After the success of the nurses as Flight Attendants, other airlines also began to implement this system.

Over the years and after World War II (WWII), the commercial aviation industry began to grow rapidly, and both the nascent and established airlines began to hire men and women for the proper care of the passenger, from that time the title given to “Flight Steward” and “Flight Stewardesses” changed to “Flight Attendant” to reflect both genders.

In the years following the creation of ICAO and with the signing of the original “Chicago Convention“, Annex 1 established the parameters for granting the Flight Attendant  license, which collectively, for the duration of the flight, form a Cabin Crew, very similar to the collective of two or more pilots designated for a flight that form the Flight Crew.

Many years have passed since Mr. Kubis laid the foundations of a profession full of challenges and great responsibilities and Miss Ellen broke the generational paradigms of the time and added her special skills, knowledge and charm. Today this profession is still full of adventures and challenges and requires a person with dedication, discipline, positive attitude and leadership, who knows how to assume responsibilities, and also demonstrates excellent communication skills, and the ability to negotiate, work in a team, make decisions and solve problems.

Definitely the Flight Attendant is a very important member of the crew of a commercial or executive aircraft (if applicable), in them not only falls the responsibility to serve and make the users feel comfortable, both passengers and flight crew, from the time the aircraft doors close at their point of departure until they open at their destination.

Additionally, they also have the challenge of maintaining safety and operational security in the passenger cabin, and protecting the entrance to the flight deck at all costs. As a Pilot and user I respect these professionals very much and I advise you to always “faithfully follow all the instructions of your flight attendant, and pay careful attention to the information they have for you”, as they are the best chance that you can come out unscathed in the eventuality of an emergency in flight or on the ground.