Today is our annual Angels of the Sky Memorial Day. I hope as many of you as possible will have popped a small ribbon on to your uniform, or lanyard, or civvies, or crew bag, basically wherever you can, to show your support.
So what is Angels of the Sky Memorial Day? Ever since I created Confessions of a Trolley Dolly I have wanted to show the world that Cabin Crew are more than just the boys and girls in the glamorous uniforms, who serve you tea and coffee, stow your luggage, serve you meals, sell scratch cards and wave our arms about doing the safety demonstration.
We are there for your safety. We are the most important safety feature onboard any aircraft.
‘Angels of the Sky’ was created to take a closer look at some of our cabin crew heroes.
We are always told that if the water is too deep, the fire is too hot and the smoke is too thick, we should save our own lives. On April 8, 1968 Barbara Jane Harrison sacrificed hers to save countless others onboard BOAC Flight 712. Five people were killed in the disaster and 38 were injured, but had it not been for her bravery, many more would have died.
Jan Brown has fought tirelessly to get the FAA to introduce child safety seats/infant seatbelts onboard aircraft in the United States; following the crash of United Airlines flight 232 at Sioux City, Iowa. Brown had been lead flight attendant that day and helped save the lives of 138 passengers.
On September 11, 2001 the aviation world lost 25 of our cabin crew and eight members of our flight crew family. Some of these crew members gave invaluable details of the unfolding hijackings to those on the ground, while others relayed information to those on the phone. Each and every one of them carried out their role with outstanding bravery, following their training on how to deal with hijackers, whilst calming and reassuring the panic striken passengers.
Iris Peterson flew for United Airlines for 61 years. During this time she worked closely with the flight attendants unions and often represented her colleagues in grievances and with safety issues. She also helped conduct the industries first aircraft evacuation tests in 1952 and worked closely with aircraft engineers to develop safety features for the worlds first ‘Jumbo-Jets’. A total of 17 of her suggestions were implemented, including the evacuation alarm, now standard equipment on aircraft worldwide.
When US Airways flight 1549 ditched in the Hudson on January 15, 2009 the world hailed its pilot Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger a hero. But little was spoken about Sheila Dail, Donna Dent and Doreen Welsh, the three crew members who safely evacuated all 150 passengers and helped them to safety from the freezing river.
When boarding an aircraft today, passengers are greeted by cabin crew from all races, nationalities and back grounds. But in 1950s America, the flying world was very different. Racial prejudices and a mountain of strict regulations meant there were NO African-American flight attendants working for an US carrier. But one woman, Ruth Carol Taylor broke down these racial barriers when she was hired by Mohawk Airlines in December 1957.
We’ve heard it all before, “You’re just a glorified waiter/waitress in the sky”. ‘Cart-tarts’, ‘Flight-deck floozies’, my own blog even brands us ‘Trolley Dollies’. True, we serve meals, pour tea and coffee. Some of us sell scratch-cards, hand out headphones and clean up after our beloved passengers. But when Asiana 214 crashed at San Francisco on July 6, 2013 the crew proved how much more than that we are.
Martinair flight MP495 crashed at Faro Airport on December 21, 1992. Onboard was crew member Herman Jansink, whose brave actions helped save the lives of countless passengers who may have perished, had they not been helped to safety.
Ali Osman was a flight attendant on British Midland flight BD092 which crashed just short of the runway at East Midlands. Despite his own horrific injuries, he calmed and reassured injured passengers trapped around him until help arrived. Numerous lessons were learnt from the cabin crews testimonies after the crash, which subsequently led to changes to the brace position and Crew Resource Management (CRM) that still exist today.
On August 22, 1985 British Airtours Flight 28M caught fire at Manchester Airport. Onboard that day were Purser Arthur Bradbury, stewardesses Joanna Toff, Sharon Ford and Jacqui Ubanski. Their heroic actions during the subsequent fire and evacuation saved the lives of many passengers. Sadly Ford and Ubanski were both lost in the tragedy. Following the accident numerous changes were made including the removal of seats near to emergency exits. The widening of bulkheads to allow better access and avoid bottlenecks and lessons were learnt about the survivability of air disasters.
Dorothy Kelly was lead flight attendant onboard Pan Am flight 1736, which was involved in the worlds deadliest air disaster on March 27, 1977. Despite her own debilitating injuries, Kelly helped saved the lives of 61 people and continued to care for her passengers in the hospital. Speaking after the accident, Dorothy Kelly said simply “I did what I could”. I’m sure you’ll agree that this remarkable woman went way above and beyond her duties that fateful day.
Uli Derikson became the first woman to receive the Silver Cross for Valor, awarded by the Legion of Valor, a veterans organisation; following the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. Her bravery, calm manner with the hijackers and compassion towards her passengers was incredible and she helped save the lives of all but one of the people onboard that day.
These are just a handful of the heroes and heroines of our industry and there are many more stories of incredible bravery to come.
Not only do I want today to be a day to celebrate these heroic crew members, it is also a day to celebrate each and every one of us, the cabin crew who put on our uniforms every day, go out and do our job to the best of our abilities; despite airlines eroding our terms and conditions, the threat of terrorism and the constant rise in disruptive passenger incidents.
We too are heroes, each and every one of us and today is for us too!
Happy Angels Of The Sky Memorial Day everyone and thank you, as ever for your continued support!
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air