Aim High: How USAF flight attendants earn their wings

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Candace Smith
  • 3d Audiovisual Squadron

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – You won’t find them on a cargo or fighter plane, but flight attendants are important members of the aircrew aboard distinguished visitor aircraft. They start their journey here at the 344th Training Squadron’s Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence.

Approximately 42 students become certified U.S. Air Force flight attendants every year through the Basic Flight Attendant course.

The BFA course is 25 academic days long, and is split into three blocks: general flight attendant knowledge, mission scenarios (culinary), and aircraft emergency procedures. Each class has a maximum of six students.

“It allows us as instructors to give the amount of attention that is needed for all students,” said Tech. Sgt. Becca Rumsey, BFA Course Student Instructor.

When learning outside the classroom, students receive hands-on training in a static Boeing VC-135E aircraft located outside the schoolhouse. The aircraft once flew military leaders and their guests around the world.

“Having this aircraft allows them to practice how they play,” Rumsey said. “They can see and feel how it’s going to be working on an aircraft.”

In late August, the six students of class 21-008 were in their final block of training – aircraft emergency procedures or egress.

“This block is where they are learning their primary job which is getting the passengers off the plane safely,” said Tech. Sgt. Autumn Murphy, Section Chief and BFA Course Instructor.

During the egress training, all six students took turns running through the procedures for both planned and unplanned evacuations. Rumsey acted as the pilot or aircraft commander during the practice. During the planned evacuations, she provided specific instructions to students. Unplanned evacuations started with a loud “BRACE, BRACE, BRACE” command from Rumsey.

Most students cross-train from other Air Force career fields. Class 21-008 was an equal mix of NCOs and Airmen.

“Recently we’ve started taking Airmen straight out of Basic Military Training,” Rumsey said. “It’s been an adjustment; we’ve had to fill those NCO roles of mentoring as well as teaching.”

“This is their second stop on their journey to becoming a certified flight attendant,” Murphy said. “Before this course they were in Air Crew Fundamentals, which is nine days long.”

The fundamentals course is also offered at the 344th TRS here.

“The first block is all about the flight attendant mission. We brief them on the different aircraft, crew positions and bases they could be stationed at,” Rumsey said.

During the mission scenarios or culinary block students learn how to plan, prep, cook and create their own meal plans. The students’ meal plans must include a boarding drink, salad, soup, main entrée, and dessert. They also learn the importance of food storage, food safety, and how to work with food allergies among passengers.

“We take the students to shop for the meals that they plan,” Rumsey said. “As flight attendants we’ll plan and shop for our meals. We make everything from scratch, so everything we serve is fresh.”

“We also instruct them on how to interact with passengers,” said Murphy “They have to remember that they’re the flight attendant and it’s their job to keep the passengers safe.”

After completing BFA, students attend Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape courses at Fairchild AFB, Washington. Once they complete SERE, they will receive additional training at their duty station.

“We’re face-to-face with the world’s leaders,” Rumsey said. 

“It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had but definitely the most rewarding,” Murphy said.

All six students in Class 21-008 passed the BFA course and are on their way to becoming fully qualified flight attendants in the Air Force.

“I’m just so happy with how far they’ve come,” Rumsey said.