Passing of a Flight Attendant Pioneer Reminds of the Profession’s Contribution to Aviation Safety

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ARTICLE: Flight Attendant Union Honors Life and Legacy of Founding Member Edith Lauterbach

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Aviation is replete with pioneers, individuals who took a leadership role, created professionalism and advanced safety. The above press release is full of admiration and affection for Edith Lauterbach, one of a quartet of the founding members of the Association of Flight Attendants.

At a time when these safety professionals were considered “hostesses” (airline management referred to them as “coeds”; their hiring was conditioned on their not marrying and exceeding weight limits was also a grounds for termination), she advocated their role in cabin safety. In 1952 her efforts resulted in the issuance of FARs as to their cabin function. In that same year, she helped draft emergency evacuation procedures through a cooperative effort with Cornell University, United, the union and the Civil Aeronautics Board, which then regulated aviation safety.

Today, AFA is a major contributor to the rules applicable to passengers and their efforts have extended the protection of their cabin work environment to the jurisdiction of OSHA.

The contributions of Ms. Lauterbach and her brother/sister flight attendants should be celebrated adequately so that management can be reminded of the Flight Attendants’ value, so that today’s cabin crews can remember the work of their predecessors and so the FAA can look at AFA’s long history of safety contributions with admiration.

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