Advisory Circulars

Commercial & Business Aviation

AIR CARRIER ADVISORY CIRCULAR


No. 0136

1997.12.05

Flight Attendant Attire

PURPOSE

This Air Carrier Advisory Circular (ACAC) is intended to inform air operators of the potential hazards for flight attendants when flight attendant uniforms do not provide adequate protection while fighting a fire or during an emergency evacuation. It also recommends that air operators take the contents of this document into consideration when replacing existing flight attendant uniforms.

APPLICABILITY

This ACAC applies to all air operators operating under Subparts 604 and 705 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations who operate aircraft requiring the carriage of flight attendants.

REFERENCES

  • U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Recommendation A-96-88.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards Information Bulletin for Air Transportation # FSIB 97-01.
  • Flight Safety Foundation, Pilots Safety Exchange Bulletin, November/December 1984.
  • Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Air Ontario Crash at Dryden, Ontario.
  • Cabin Safety Update, published by the (British) Journal for Civil Aviation Training.
  • Federal Aviation Administration’s Fly Smart, An Air Traveller’s Guide.

BACKGROUND

On June 8, 1995, a DC-9-32 aircraft operated by a United States air operator began its take-off roll. A loud bang was heard; the flight crew members of a following aircraft reported to the flight crew of the DC-9 that the right engine was on fire. The take-off was rejected. Shrapnel from the engine penetrated the fuselage and the engine’s main fuel line, and a cabin fire erupted. The aircraft stopped on the runway and was evacuated. The NTSB investigation disclosed that the flight attendant who received the most serious injuries was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. This resulted in NTSB Recommendation A-96-88 suggesting that the FAA provide information to their air carriers regarding flight attendant attire.

Survival factors observations addressed in the Commission of Inquiry into the Air Ontario Crash at Dryden, Ontario included clothing worn by flight attendants. These observations are based on the investigation conducted by the human factors investigators, as reported by them in writing and in testimony before the Inquiry. In the Final Report, Justice Virgil P. Moshansky wrote "Another cabin safety issue involves the clothing worn by the flight attendants. Flight attendant Hartwick’s outer clothing comprised slip-on shoes, a light dress, and a sleeveless vest. She lost one shoe in the aircraft and the other outside the aircraft, in the snow. She eventually borrowed a pair of shoes from a passenger, enabling her to better help the survivors. I see a need for there to be more attention paid to clothing all flight attendants in a manner that will allow them to better provide the leadership required of them in an emergency."

The most obvious reason for having a uniform is that crew members are easily identifiable in the event of an emergency.

Impact protection, fire protection and evacuation are the key issues in aircraft accident survivability.

Safety experts agree that in order to decrease the chance of sustaining burns, it is better to wear long sleeves and pants than it is to wear short sleeves and short pants. In addition, natural fibres such as wool and cotton are better than synthetic fibres. Also, it is better to have enclosed low heeled shoes.

Fabrics:

  • Research has shown that outer and inner garments made from natural fibres, such as wool and cotton, provide good protection as they do not flare up vigorously when brought into contact with an ignition source; they tend to self-extinguish once the ignition source has been removed; they char rather than shrink or melt; they do not transmit heat as readily as a synthetic material; and they are more resistant to destruction by radiant heat.
     
  • Synthetic materials pose a hazard in a fire situation. Application of an ignition source will generally cause ready ignition of the material, and vigorous burning will continue when the ignition source is removed; transmitted or radiant heat will cause the material to shrink before it finally melts.
     
  • Many synthetic fibres burn very easily and, when they burn, melt down very quickly, sticking to the skin.

Style of Clothing:

  • Long sleeves and pants are preferred over short sleeves and very short skirts or shorts because generally, the more of the body that is covered the better protection that will be offered against fire, the elements, etc.
     
  • Very long or tight skirts are not suitable for evacuating a cabin because of their restrictive nature.

Footwear:

  • Shoes without laces, straps or functional buckles may be thrown off during significant impact forces when an aircraft is lurching or crashing, or they may be lost when the wearer is moving about in wreckage, walking through debris, on uneven, marshy or very soft terrain, in desert sand or in deep snow.

    Shoes with laces, straps or functional buckles should be encouraged rather than loafers or pumps because they enable the wearer to move about in wreckage more freely.

  • Very high heeled shoes or sandals should be discouraged because they are not suitable for evacuating a cabin, moving about in wreckage, walking through debris, on uneven, marshy or very soft terrain, in desert sand, in deep snow or on ice.

    Enclosed low heeled shoes are encouraged because they enable the wearer to move about in wreckage more freely and protect the feet.

Cold Weather Conditions:

Wearing outer clothing (coats, gloves/mitts, boots) for take-off and landing during winter or harsh weather conditions should be encouraged to better protect flight attendants from the elements.

PROCEDURES

Transport Canada recommends that air operators take the following into consideration when replacing existing flight attendant uniforms to ensure that they are suitable for flight attendants’ safety related duties:

  • Select cotton or wool, which are natural fibres, or blends with a high percentage content of cotton or wool.
  • Select long sleeved blouses and shirts.
  • Select pants over shorts.
  • Avoid very long skirts, tight skirts, and very short skirts.
  • Select enclosed low heeled shoes.
  • Select shoes with laces, straps or functional buckles.

Transport Canada also recommends that air operators implement the following operational procedures:

  1. Flight attendants don their uniform jackets before taking their assigned station for take-off and landing; or where applicable, flight attendants wear outer clothing (coats, gloves/mitts, boots) for take-off and landing during winter or harsh weather conditions.
     
  2. Where circumstances permit, flight attendants protect themselves by donning their uniform jacket before fighting a fire.
     
  3. Flight attendants not wear impractical type footwear such as high heeled shoes or sandals during the taxi, take-off and landing phases of flight.

CONCLUSION

This ACAC is intended to inform air operators of the potential hazards for flight attendants when flight attendant uniforms do not provide adequate protection while fighting a fire or during an emergency evacuation and to recommend that air operators take the contents of this document into consideration when replacing existing flight attendant uniforms.

M.R. Preuss
Acting Director
Commercial and Business Aviation

Commercial & Business Aviation Advisory Circulars (CBAAC) are intended to provide information and guidance regarding operational matters. A CBAAC may describe an acceptable, but not the only, means of demonstrating compliance with existing regulations. CBAACs in and of themselves do not change, create any additional, authorize changes in, or permit deviations from regulatory requirements.

Date modified: