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Home > Emergencies > Questions from an aviation English teacher?
Questions from an aviation English teacher?
Flying - Emergencies
Sunday, 14 October 2007 19:11
Hi Captain Lim!

Congratulations on a very informative website and the work you are doing to dispel passengers* fears of flying.

I*m writing not out of fear, but because I*ve started to teach English to pilots and flight attendants and I*m trying to learn as much as I can so as not to appear stupid in front of my students! Also, I*m trying to understand their jobs and the problems they could face so I can target areas where they really need language help.

There is a huge barrier of security/confidentiality (since 9/11), which means my students cannot/will not tell me some things I feel would be very helpful to know to help them. The airline is also reluctant to answer questions I have, probably for the same reason.

For example, soon we*ll start a unit on health and medical problems. The vocabulary and language points are only general, limited to complaints of stomach ache, raised temperature, etc, and advice such as call a doctor, take an aspirin, go to bed...as they are on many language courses. But it seems that the circumstances that flight crew work under are anything but general. I want to make it as relevant to their real life situations as I can, so I have some questions.

1. In your (or your colleagues*) experience, what kind of medical situations have arisen that flight attendants had to communicate with you, the captain, about, and what were you able to do to help?

2. Have you ever had to divert a flight for a medical emergency? What was the nature of the emergency, and how did the flight crew manage until landing and transferring the passenger? By manage, I mean not only the patient, but distress among other passengers.

3. Can flight attendants give over-the-counter medication such as stomach settlers, pain killers?

4. I*ve read about turbulence injuries and how they occur, but I*m more interested in what kind of injuries typically occur, what would be classed as moderate to severe, requiring communication with the captain? And what, if anything, could the captain/flight attendants actually do about it while in flight?

5. More general - what kind of medical situations are covered in staff training and what kind of equipment is on board to help? Apart from a debate about having defibrillators on board, I haven*t found anything concrete on the net. yet.

6. Last one - a bit morbid, maybe - I have heard that if there is a fatality in-flight, the deceased is left in his/her seat until landing. Is this true, or an urban myth?

I want to use this information to develop REALISTIC role plays and simulations for the students.

I realize that this is probably beyond the scope of your usual answers and would take a lot of your time to answer thoroughly, so perhaps you could point me to some links where I can find the information for myself?

Thank you!


Hi Fiona,

Yes, you are right. Your questions are beyond the scope of my usual answers. After about 1000 FAQ and more than 7 years of answering questions, I have slowed down a lot ? only answering newer and interesting ones.

To do justice to your detailed queries, I am afraid I don*t have the time at the moment to cover them all.

But very briefly, here are the skeletons:-

1. Many medical conditions can arise ? the most common are usually the kind that requires the administration of therapeutic oxygen to passengers with breathing difficulties. Anything beyond First Aid would require the assistance of a doctor.

2. I was lucky that I didn*t have to divert for serious medical emergencies in any of my flights.

3. As above, Flight Attendants are trained for First Aids only. Pain killers are usually prescribed by doctors on board.

4. Turbulence is thoroughly covered in my site here

5. Answers as 3 and 6.

6. I have answered this here - What would happen if someone were to die while in-flight?

Sorry for the brief answers. Enjoy your English teaching!


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All the links about turbulence and in-flight deaths are broken. smilies/sad.gif
Daniel , 08 Jul, 2014

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