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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New RAC stewards trained and keen to take to the skies

New RAC stewards trained and keen to take to the skies

CHHUN Phola is a rather shy 20-year-old woman, at least it seems when she speaks

to the press. Beyond her native Khmer, she speaks Chinese, a little Thai, a little

French and chooses her words carefully, if haltingly, in English when asked questions

about her new career as a flight attendant with Royal Air Cambodge, wringing her

hands tightly and looking a bit worried that she might say the wrong thing.

First impressions aside, Phola has recently been certified that she can scream her

lungs out with the best of them, that she can take charge at an exit door of an airline

in trouble while trying to manage a plane load of panicked passengers, and that she

knows more than the rest of us about what to do when something goes wrong on any

international flight anywhere in the world.

Phola won't be flying around the world. She will be on your next RAC flight to one

of their destinations in the region.

Along with 18 other new RAC flight attendants, Phola just graduated from a three

month training program in Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur where, when it comes to safety,

joking around was not tolerated.

To get certified the "scream test" is one of the most important and takes

place in an airline mock-up where cabin fires, emergency landings and ocean ditchings

are simulated. Trainees have to staff the exits, barking out evacuation instructions

and shepherd a cabin load of "passengers" out onto the emergency inflatable

chute.

At the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Kuala Lumpur Nithianandhan Sinnaduria runs the

safety center like a drill sargent at an army commando school. More than 5,000 flight

attendants from around the world come under his watchful eyes every year.

"If they fail the safety test, they are grounded," says Sinnaduria sternly.

"We ground more people than we recruit."

Sinnaduria says all the Cambodians passed the tests. "No problem," he says,

"they did well."

"They told us not to be shy," says Phola, "we screamed very well."

Adds classmate Nget Visoth "if you laughed, you did not pass the course. We

were all very serious."

RAC Chariman Vichit Ith had the look of a proud father when he helped pass out the

training certificates to the new flight attendants on May 29. And with good reason

too. His newly trained air stewards and stewardesses exuded an air of enormous confidence

at the ceremony, sporting their smart uniforms and eager to represent their country

on the national airline.

It was a sight worth seeing.

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