Conference Report: “Flexibility in flight”

By Ing. Robert-Paul van Tol

The 26th of June 1998 dawned with an eventful day ahead of me. I was to face the last of my exams and later on participate in a symposium organised by the Netherlands Aviation College (NLC). This college not only trains her students to become Stewards/Stewardesses, but it also offers the training for Technicians.

I woke up early in the morning and took a last glance through my books before leaving home. Although I was quite confident that I would pass the exam with no problem I was still a bit nervous. As soon as I finished my exam I sneaked into the teachers’ toilet and changed into the suite I had brought along. I had still one hour to reach the symposium. I made my way to the train station only to find out that the train had left. Since I had never travelled out of this station I was not familiar with the timetable. I noticed an express train passing through this station heading to Hoofddorp but did not stop. Thus I had to take the next train.

I was not the only board member who was attending this symposium and I assumed they were on the express train that passed through. I went through my train to see if any of the other board members were on the train. Unfortunately, I did not see anyone. I looked at my watch and saw that I would be just in time for the opening.  On disembarking the train in Hoofddorp I noticed to my surprise another board member also disembark the same train. We walked for a good fifteen minutes to the venue. On reaching the venue we were escorted by some hostesses to the entrance, which turned out to be the hanger.

At the entrance to the hanger two red carpets were laid out to form a ‘V’. A hostess told us to walk on the red carpet that led into the hanger. On entering the hanger we noticed many students standing along the carpet surrounding an announcer who stood in the centre. We were asked for our names and on announcing our names a student came and escorted each of us through to a table. While walking through, I noticed many aircraft in the hanger that were used for the studies. The tables were set in the centre of these aircraft. Most of the invitees had already arrived. Looking around I saw yet another board member amongst the people. We joined him and five minutes later, we were joined by yet another board member. Once seated our student escort asked us what we would like to eat and drink, at the same time we received a folder that included the program, note paper, brochures and the tie of the college.

Finishing our lunch we were called for the official opening. After the introduction the show made by the students was given based on the different styles of music. Flexibility in Flight was the theme of the day. A panel consisting of Mrs. Boezelman – a KLM stewardess, Mr Vreede – head ATC Eurocontrol, Mr Vrieswijk from Transavia and several videopresentations introduced the topic of the day. The conclusion was that flexibility is very important in the aviation industry, but not always possible.

The next item of the agenda was the merry-go-round. There were about twelve subjects and every participant could participate in only three subjects. Each subject had a colour and a corner. The whole school had been used to host this workshop. My colleagues and I selected the same subjects. The first was about Kenya and Tanzania; this was a short discussion on the education system in both countries. We changed colour (i.e. we changed subjects) and went to the next one that was held in a cabin. We were invited to listen to a live conversation about limitations of flexibility by three ‘travel-guides’ (one guiding his airline through the world of business, one air traffic controller and a spiritual guide, a clergyman). We then selected our last choice that was the workshop of DHL. Basically they demonstrated how Internet could be used to get pictures globally and use the system for overseas conference calls, as well as their tracking system. They had also a competition. The question was ‘How long would DHL take to ship a package from Japan to Hoofddorp?’ The question was clear, they said it had been shipped out only the day before and it was arriving ‘today’. They only wanted to know what time it would arrive. I said 09.00hrs. This was the best shot of the day! Unfortunately they said I had not put the date. The answer was 09.20 hrs. The next closest answer (10.45 hrs) won. The prize a Sony jacket was not really what I was looking forward to. It was after all not a disappointment.

We went for our coffee break followed by an hour discussion on how to improve educational programs. All this was followed by a buffet where everybody, mainly people connected with the aviation industry and the NLC were invited. We were thanked for our participation. And when it was time for refreshments we attacked the food.

This interesting day came to a conclusion at 20.00 hrs.

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