Completing Your Flight Department: The Importance of a Third Crewmember

PT 5 M minute read
Completing Your Flight Department: The Importance of a Third Crewmember

This is a post by guest author Carol Martin of Sit ‘n’ Stay Global, LLC. Carol was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her expertise as a flight attendant with a specialization in animal safety and care as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.

Surprisingly we are still having discussions about the importance of a third crewmember on large cabin aircraft. Perhaps we have been discussing points that are simply too obvious and need to consider some of the benefits of a third crewmember that nobody really wants to think about. The things we are trained to do and keep current on, are often things nobody wants to talk about in everyday conversation. The things we think about during every takeoff and landing would make many passengers a bit nervous. Most would rather focus on our ability to prepare world-class cuisine and make the bedding look really pretty.

These are private jets where no expense has been spared to have the very best provisions for safety and security. Many are equipped with a Tempus unit *, defibrillator, MedAire subscription **, smoke hoods, and life rafts that are top shelf. It seems incongruent that the flight departments or corporations might think a third crewmember would be a luxury or unnecessary expense. When the third crewmember is viewed that way, it may be because the decision makers have become distracted by the “cabin attendant persona” who makes everything beautiful and presents five star cuisines. It’s human nature to focus on that, because nobody wants to think about what we’re really trained to do and how we support the operations of the flight department invisibly, if done correctly.

1. Flight deck support

A well-trained and experienced cabin attendant can ease the workload for the flight deck by completely managing the cabin. This allows the pilots to remain focused on flying and completing associated duties. They never have to divide their attention to maintaining a tidy cabin and lav, preparing and serving food, or checking to make sure everything is operating correctly in the aft section of the aircraft. The cabin attendant can also ensure that the pilots remain properly hydrated and nourished, as well as, provide breaks so they can maintain focus.

2. Medical first responder

Your third crewmember is trained as a medical first responder. Your pilots are trained as well, but you don’t want one of your pilots leaving the flight deck to assist while the other one manages an emergency landing to get a critically ill passenger to a trauma center. Perhaps you feel comfortable because you have a doctor on board as a passenger, but what if the person who becomes ill is the doctor? Having someone on board who is trained in field response for in-flight emergencies and has experience in triage assistance in case of an accident is not only a good idea, but a safe one.

3. Fire fighter

Your crew is trained to fight an in-flight fire. This is something nobody ever wants to encounter and tries very hard not to think about. If there is a fire, discovering it early is essential. Having a highly trained and experienced third crewmember is critical as a fire rarely starts in the cockpit. A third crewmember is trained to detect the first signs of any overheating or a hidden fire. They are trained to detect and fight fires behind the walls and under the floors. You don’t want to think about that. Flight attendants practice staying calm and fighting these types of fires with hands-on training every year. A third crewmember can be fighting the fire while both pilots concentrate on getting the aircraft on the ground safely, which is the first priority in a fire. You will be very glad to have a third crewmember on board in this situation.

4. Security detail

Welcome aboard, the cabin looks beautiful and pleasing every time of course. Your trained third crewmember can make the cabin look beautiful, but also focuses on every item in the cabin, allowing them to detect any new or unidentified items that are present while the pilots focus on flight related items. Security is always a top priority, but what if we were to learn in-flight that we have a bomb on board? Your third crewmember would know the safest location for it and how to build a safe compartment around it, while staying calm because they have practiced this annually. Your pilots know this too, but having a third crewmember allows your pilots to stay focused on flying and communicating with the ground, while the third crewmember deals with the threat. They have also been trained in hostage negotiation and defense tactics.

5. Flight department team member

The third crewmember can ease the load for your entire flight department by restocking the aircraft upon return from a mission. The cabin attendant knows better than anyone exactly what supplies have been depleted during a trip and can easily keep track and re-stock the aircraft upon return. Other duties can include management of linens and china, stocking items onboard , and maintaining passenger and crew profiles. This can free up your flight department for their main duties, such as dispatch and accounting.

6. Privacy

We might as well take a direct look at the elephant in the room and address the issue of privacy. This is the number one issue many private jet owners have with bringing a third crewmember on board. Please realize that a properly trained cabin attendant knows how to be available, but invisible. Discretion and owner privacy are top priorities. If you don’t feel like you can have your own space or your discussions are not secure, you don’t have the right crewmember. It’s that simple. Not every person will be the right fit for your operation, but it is worth it to find the one that will work with your needs and style, allowing your flight department to gain all of the benefits that a third crewmember can bring to your team.

Closing Thoughts

Try thinking about the third crewmember as an extended member of the flight deck crew and an addition to the flight department staff, as well as a fire fighter, emergency first responder, and security specialist who will also fill in as a culinary artist and concierge on the side. Maybe that will help define this role in a way that makes sense. There’s just so much of that role that people really don’t want to think about, but your third crewmember trains every year on many items to make sure they stay in top form. Your third crewmember is just like your fire extinguisher and your life raft. You really hope you’ll never have to use them for their true purpose, but you wouldn’t dream of not having those essential pieces of safety equipment on board for the one time that you do need them. The difference is you can actually use your third crewmember for so much more on every mission.

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If you have any questions about this article or adding a third crewmember to your flight department, contact me at

Got a question for Carol about this article?