Whenever you take a flight out or to Perth, have you ever asked yourself, “What if an emergency happens?”, “What if someone suddenly gives birth?”, or “What if my seatmate experiences a sudden cardiac arrest?“. If so, that’s understandable, especially since there have been reports where these emergencies happened during a flight. The question is, what happens when these occur? Are there onboard doctors to treat the patients? Is there an emergency room on the planes to perform necessary medical procedures? Let’s find the answers below.
Are there Onboard Doctors on the Plane?
According to Traveller, all airlines are required to provide first aid training to all their cabin crews. As such, the airline staff is trained to recognise signs and symptoms of distress, sickness, or injury. This allows them to provide the proper first aid practices when necessary. However, among the list of airline employees on a flight, there is no mention of an onboard doctor on the plane.
Who are the Onboard Staff on the Plane?
According to the General Operating and Flight Rules Guide released by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, a cabin crew member is required if an aircraft carries 20 or more passengers. However, if there are two pilots in a flight crew, an aircraft may carry passengers of up to 22 in total without a cabin crew member. This is possible only if no more than 19 of these passengers are adults or children. As you can see, an aircraft is required to only have a pilot and/or a cabin crew member.
What is the Role of a Pilot on the Plane?
Seek defines the role of a pilot to be:
- Operating an aircraft (aeroplanes and helicopters).
- Transporting passengers and goods between locations.
- Flying an aircraft which includes takeoff and landing.
- Being in touch with the control tower on departure.
- Requesting permission to land before reaching a destination.
These are being performed by 2-3 pilots onboard for long-haul flights.
What is the Role of a Cabin Crew Member Onboard the Plane?
In Collin’s dictionary, a cabin crew is defined as “the people whose job is to look after the passengers.” It is a collective term for everyone who works onboard the plane which includes:
- Flight attendants.
- Senior flight attendants (pursers).
Each member of a cabin crew has its distinct functions.
What is the Role of a Flight Attendant Onboard the Plane?
Elevate Aviation mentions that flight attendants are the ones who perform an in-flight safety demonstration which may cover:
- A reminder to review the aircraft’s safety card.
- Instruction on the usage of seat belts, and how to lock and unlock them.
- A reminder that passengers must comply with lighted signs, posted placards, and any instructions from the crew members.
- Instruction on where emergency exits, evacuation slides, and emergency floor lighting are located
- A demonstration on how to use an oxygen mask
- A demonstration of how to use life vests.
- A reminder on the precautions to take before take-off and landing.
Furthermore, Seek lists the following tasks and duties of a flight attendant:
- Ensuring that there is enough supply of emergency equipment and refreshments onboard.
- Taking care of passengers with their needs.
- Assisting the passengers in locating their seats and cabins.
- Preparing and serving meals to the passengers.
- Cleaning the aircraft cabins, stowing food, equipment, and cabin baggage.
- Dealing with security issues.
- Distributing amenities to the passengers to help with their comfort.
- Performing a first aid response when required.
To ensure that performing the last duty on the list is done if needed, flight attendants are required to undergo first aid training. Fortunately, there is an available first aid course at 123C Colin St West Perth 6005. A refresher course is also being offered by the same Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) regulated company.
What is the Role of a Senior Flight Attendant (Pursers) Onboard the Plane?
As the supervisor of every operation conducted onboard the plane, they manage the flight attendants who are directly in contact with the passengers. Since they are more experienced, they also earn a higher salary than flight attendants.
What Happens if there is an Emergency Onboard the Plane?
As mentioned above, flight attendants are trained to perform first aid management when needed. So, they may be able to help by providing the necessary first aid steps in responding to an emergency onboard the plane. In addition, having an onboard passenger who is a doctor may also be helpful, but they are not required to assist in emergencies as posted on ABC News. Furthermore, there will be no liability and/or legal proceedings against the doctors who assist in emergencies onboard regardless of the outcome as per Australia’s law that protects ‘Good Samaritans’.
What is the Good Samaritan Legislation?
It is a protection and coverage to onboard doctors on the plane that will keep them from any liability and legal proceedings. It was released especially since those onboard doctors:
- May not have a pre-existing relationship with an aeroplane passenger.
- May not know the medical history of an aeroplane passenger.
- May be providing medical care to the best of their abilities.
The same law covers any other health professional that will come forward in providing medical assistance to a passenger. For further medical treatment, an emergency landing may be done by an aeroplane.
What is an Emergency Landing?
Skybrary says that aside from runways, an emergency landing may be made on fields or water resources among others. It is a landing that is considered an emergency by the pilot and will be given priority over other traffic (which includes stopping departures and delaying or even delaying other arriving aircraft). After this is done, a passenger may then be brought to a nearby health facility so he/she may be provided with the necessary medical treatment.
Are there Emergency Rooms on the Plane?
Some stories of how onboard doctors and other medical professionals provided help during emergencies on planes were released on websites like ABC and Condé Nast Traveler. In the statements, first aid and medical treatment were provided on parts of the plane that may not be considered an emergency room.
How was a Passenger’s Seat used instead of an Emergency Room?
In one of these stories, an intensive care paramedic and an emergency doctor took care of a patient who was having a severe seizure in her seat. They continued to treat and care for the woman until they landed, wherein ambulance paramedics arrived on the scene on the aeroplane.
How was the Floor used Instead of an Emergency Room?
A nurse unit manager shared a story wherein she helped rouse a passenger who fell unconscious on the floor in front of the toilet. She then assessed the passenger’s consciousness and tried to reorientate him to a person, place, and time.
How was the Cockpit used Instead of an Emergency Room?
A podiatrist came to the front of the plane after hearing the announcement of a need for a doctor to help a sick passenger. He assessed that the passenger was in a life-threatening situation and that an emergency landing must be done. The decision was announced after he came out of the plane’s cockpit.
How was the Back of the Plane used Instead of an Emergency Room?
A baby was successfully delivered with the help of an internist, a psychiatric nurse, and a pediatric nurse who were all brought to the back of the plane with the flight attendants. There they performed the delivery by improvising with the use of makeup scissors, shoelaces, and other passengers’ blankets.
There are no onboard doctors as part of the crew members and there are no emergency rooms on the plane. However, flight attendants are trained first aiders and may help in providing first aid responses if necessary. In addition, onboard doctors and other medical professionals may also choose to come forward to help in providing treatment in emergencies on the plane. They may provide these treatments on parts of the plane that are not considered emergency rooms. In doing so, they are protected by Australia’s law on Good Samaritans which will keep them from any liability or legal proceedings. Furthermore, an emergency landing may be made so a passenger will be brought to a nearby health facility where medical treatment may be provided.