A private airline in the capital has obtained federal approval for its emergency training programme thanks largely to the hard work of one man.
Hank Jacobs has been the safety training instructor at Abu Dhabi Aviation, which flies plans and helicopters to oilfields and islands in the UAE and abroad, for six years.
The South African has worked as a safety trainer for two decades, and still loves it enough that he studies it in his spare time.
But 16 months ago, when Abu Dhabi Aviation underwent an initial attempt at federal training accreditation, the results were not good.
Nabeela Al Awadhi, head of the aeromedical section at the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said her initial visit was “not impressive at all.”
The airline did not have the required safety instruction and operation manuals, and its request would have been rejected outright if not for the “passion and dedication” of Mr Jacobs, she said.
In Mr Jacobs’s own words: “I love everything about safety training. If you ask what I like to do in the weekends, it’s studying stuff like this. It’s my passion. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now, and love my job. I stick to what I know and what I’m good at. If you put me in a food and beverage job I would be lost.”
In Ms Al Awadhi’s words: “He would call and ask me every day what he could do to improve his application. I said it would be too difficult, but he persisted.”
Persistence paid off as, on its latest review, Abu Dhabi Aviation’s training programme wowed the inspectors and received their final approval.
“When they reapplied, I was very surprised with the high level of the new application. I am proud of what we have reached together – this is now the best facility in the UAE,” Ms Al Awadhi said.
The accreditation means Abu Dhabi Aviation is now one of the five airline operators in the UAE – out of a field of 55 operators – to have GCAA approval to adopt the internationally recognised Medic First Aid training programme. The others include Emirates Airline and flydubai; an application by Etihad Airways is pending.
Medic First Aid teaches an extensive array of first-aid techniques, including CPR, handling births and miscarriages on a flight, as well as treating heart attacks, controlling bleeding, dousing fires and more.
The company’s training facility at Abu Dhabi International Airport features life-sized mannequins that simulate bleeding and choking. It also has a manual defibrillator machine that allows students to practise what to do in the event a passenger has a heart attack.
Mr Jacobs said the discipline required by the Medic First Aid programme filters out “bogus safety training centres”.
He said, “It blows the rest out of the water.”
The GCAA will audit the airline’s training programme annually.
Abu Dhabi Aviation, which has operated since 1976, employs about 200 pilots, 14 cabin crew and 50 workers on the ground who deal with passengers.
Both helicopter and aeroplane pilots will be required to take a one-day, seven-hour course in order to be certified. The airline’s ground staff will also be required to receive the training.
To learn how to deal with conditions in a pressurised cabin environment – which causes changes in blood flow, blood pressure and body temperature – cabin crew are expected to take an advanced, five-day course.
The quality of training is vital to saving lives, as there is “no time to lose”, Mr Jacobs said.
“If there is a loss of blood for more than three minutes, you’re going to start becoming unconscious,” Mr Jacobs said. “That’s the same time it takes to walk to the kitchen, put the kettle on for a cup of tea … and then someone’s dead.”
The general manager of Abu Dhabi Aviation, Mohammed Ibrahim M Al Mazrouei, said Medic First Aid is the right programme for the company.
“We worked hard to get it,” he said, “so we are very happy.”May 2012