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The SWISS Experience Day: a unique glimpse behind the scenes

Read in: Deutsch

The name says it all: an “experience day” should be something rather special. And last Saturday certainly was for around 80 children. Early in the morning, with the fog still on the ground, the young aviation fans gathered at Zurich Airport for a six-hour “close-up and hands-on” discovery of SWISS and its multi-faceted world – flight simulator and First Class included!

The adventure began at Swiss AviationTraining (SAT). SWISS’s training subsidiary, which is located just beside the airport, is where pilots and cabin staff acquire all the knowledge and the skills they need to perform their varied tasks as precisely and professionally as possible. With its customers’ safety and well-being paramount in all of SWISS’s activities, cabin crew members in particular must complete a number of courses in safety precautions and procedures, first aid and general service approaches: how can you evacuate a whole aircraft in 90 seconds? What should you do if there’s a fire on board, or a passenger suffers a heart attack?

In all these challenging situations, a cabin crew member must be able to assume responsibility and make the right decisions. So having a well-working team in which everyone knows what they have to do is crucial. Some of the training here is conducted on SAT’s “mock-ups” – parts of the aircraft that have been specially recreated for training purposes. And here our young visitors got to experience a “ditching”, i.e. an emergency landing on water. Life vest on, inflate on exit and into the life raft, which was then even noisily covered with its protective tarpaulin.

SAT’s pilot trainees undergo almost two years of instruction. And right from the start they begin to acquire flying experience on a range of smaller aircraft types. Once they have completed their basic training, their courses also start to make use of SAT’s highly sophisticated flight simulators, which are available for a number of larger aircraft types. Here the trainees learn their flight and safety procedures, and can safely practise flying manoeuvres under various conditions. The simulator crew is also expected to be constantly monitoring all the aircraft’s systems: engines, landing gear, ventilation, cabin pressure and so on. And for this they run through a series of checklists. On top of all that, they also need a “Plan B” – an alternate airport that they could divert to in the event of a major emergency. On completion of their training, a pilot will receive their licence to fly a particular aircraft type. And soon after that they’ll be sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft full of passengers and starting their service career.

Flight preparations in the OPC

A further vital facility at Zurich Airport is the architecturally striking Operations Center (OPC). This is where each flight’s crew of pilots and cabin staff meet up for the pre-flight briefing. It’s also where various SWISS units work away in the background, collecting meteorological data from around the world, devising duty rosters, responding to passengers’ inquiries and monitoring SWISS’s flight operations all over the globe. The OPC is where all the information the crew will need for their flight is gathered together: the weather they can expect en route, the routing planned, possible alternate airports along the way, the projected fuel consumption, the weight of the cargo booked and more. And it’s all taken into the briefing and shared among the crew.

Welcome aboard!

After the crew briefing, we’re ready to depart. And our keen young group – some of whom have surprised us already with their aviation expertise – are now invited to board one of SWISS’s Airbus A340s, which is about to fly to Shanghai. From First to Business to Economy, each cabin is carefully and thoroughly sampled. The SWISS First seats, which can be turned into a bed at the touch of a button, and the inflight food, which is the creation of the airline’s guest chefs under its “SWISS Taste of Switzerland” culinary programme, both get a particular thumbs-up. Needless to say, there’s also time for a glimpse into the cockpit, and for a quick look at the galleys and at the crew rest area in the belly of the aircraft, too.

After a souvenir “group photo” out on the apron, the youngsters were escorted by around a dozen members of the SWISS team – pilots, cabin crew and ground staff – to the SWISS Arrival Lounge. And here they were offered a little sustenance after all the excitements, along with a parting gift which – in keeping with the Christmas season – was stuffed full of tasty SWISS chocolates!

Further SWISS Experience Days will be held next year on 21 March and on 30 May. To register visit www.swiss.com/career

You’ll also find an extensive selection of photos from our latest SWISS Experience Day on flickr.com