Inside Singapore Airlines cabin safety training centre

Many of us are familiar with the procedures and protocols that must be followed when onboard an aircraft. But what happens in the event of an actual emergency?

To get a good understanding, Newshub was taken into the Singapore Airlines training facility, where the airline's hundreds of cabin crew are trained in all aspects of what to do in an emergency.

Our guide was Celine Kwah, the assistant manager of facilities and training admin at Singapore Airlines. There's nothing about window shades being up and tray tables being folded away that she doesn't know off by heart.

She started the facility tour in a giant hall that housed a replica Airbus A380 so large it was at the same height as the actual aircraft when it's on the ground.

The slides also act as rafts if an aircraft ditches in the water.
The slides also act as rafts if an aircraft ditches in the water. Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

The evacuation slides were already deployed as a training session had just wrapped up.

Seeing them right there in front of me, I was reminded of a question I'm often asked about evacuation slides: Why must you take your shoes off during an evacuation?

"It's particularly for the ladies, it's because your high heels will puncture the slide," Kwah said.

And, despite its name, you don't actually slide when exiting.

"Can you imagine in an evacuation, passengers are already running, so there will be no way you can actually sit down and slide. So it's more jump and slide, jump and slide," she says.

Every passenger airliner must be capable of being fully evacuated within 90 seconds of the order being given, even Airbus A380s which carry hundreds of passengers over two levels.

In 2006, during an A380 certification test, a team of crew members managed to evacuate 853 passengers, 18 crew and two pilots in just 78 seconds.

Inside Singapore Airlines cabin safety training centre
Photo credit: Dan Lake/Newshub

As Captain Sullenberger taught us, not all emergencies happen on land, and often the water can be the smoothest surface to land an aircraft, so crews are trained in detail for that too.

Kwah took us through to the water training area which had a giant swimming pool and a replica aircraft.

"Here we are training for any ditching scenarios. So, if the aircraft ditches into the water, and they crash, then they must learn water survival," Kwah said.

Water ditching happens more often than you might think. One of the most recent times was in September 2018 when an Air Niugini landed just short of Chuuk International Airport in Weno. There was just one fatality.

I was interested to hear why crew are instructed to "arm their doors" before take-off. Was it some throwback to September 11?

The answer is much more simple and Kwah told me in some detail, as you can see in the video. But to summarise, it's to stop the slide from deploying mid-flight.

A handy fact you can throw at your plane geek friend next time you see them is that Boeing cabin doors are always opened by turning the arm back, whereas in Airbus, you lift the arm.

Inside Singapore Airlines cabin safety training centre
Photo credit: Newshub.

As for why the lights have to be switched off during take-off and landing, the main reason is so your eyes can adjust to the natural light level outside.

For example, if the aircraft is fully lit up during landing and an accident occurs, the moment the lights go out, you won't be able to see anything until your eyes have become used to the darkness. Those are precious seconds you may not have in an emergency.

After a 'crash course' 60 minute tour of the training centre, it was time for me to give the evacuation procedure a go.

The actual moment of evacuation in the simulator is full on. It's noisy, it's dramatic and despite the long lead-up, it still took me by surprise. 

And despite there being no slide, the tour ended with me jumping to the safety of the floor just centimetres away.

The visit was a real eye-opener on not just how seriously airlines take the issue of safety, but the amount of money spent on maintaining its standards, and the amount of time cabin crew put into learning what to do in just about any emergency scenario.