Preaching the Preflight Gospel: Preparing Your
Passengers for That Next Flight
by Mike Brown
Reprinted with permission from FAA
a myriad of complex issues to be considered, most pilots begin each flight long
before stepping into the cockpit. While tasks such as weather analysis, chart
selection, and aircraft preflight are all important to safety, general aviation
(GA) pilots often neglect another equally important responsibility. The
preflight passenger briefing, in many cases a mere afterthought, should include
more than simple anecdotal advice concerning airsickness or flight control
interference. Maximizing passenger comfort and safety involves a careful review
of the airplane, the environment in which it is to be operated, and most
importantly, the needs of each passenger.
According to the Regs...
The infrequent nature of aviation
accidents, coupled with a lack of regulatory guidance, are the two primary
reasons many GA pilots neglect giving a comprehensive preflight passenger
briefing. The only exception to the later may be found within Title 14 Code of
Federal Regulations (CFR) section 91.107, which states in part'
''No pilot may take off a U.S.-
registered civil aircraft unless the pilot in command of that aircraft ensures
that each person on board is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten that person's
safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness.'
In addition, 14 CFR sections 91.517
and 91.519, which are applicable only to operators of large and turbine-powered
multi-engine airplanes, mirror many of the regulations governing Part 121 and
135 air carriers. Collectively, they provide an introductory source of
information relevant to preflight passenger briefings. Still, much within these
regulations is extraneous to GA operations. In short, 14 CFR part 91 lacks the
specificity necessary to address many of the situations likely to be encountered
during normal flight operations.
One Possible Solution...
To counter this difficulty,
pilots may wish to formulate a checklist or safety briefing card, similar to the
example shown, to aid in completing their briefing more efficiently. For such a
checklist to be of value, it must be thorough, easy to follow, and dynamic to
the degree necessary to address the demands imposed by a typical flight.
Passenger Briefing Checklist Ground:
Ramp Area (remain with pilot)
Operation of aircraft doors
Location and use of onboard
Use of onboard oxygen
systems (if applicable)
Use of seat belts and
Seat position and adjustment
Location of survival gear
(first aid kit, life vests, etc.)
Location and use of heating
and cooling vents
1. Access and use of flight controls
Crash positions (front and rear passengers)
Front- slide seat aft as practicable
Rear- move to rear facing seats as time and
CG permit (as applicable). Brace for impact
Secure loose items
Aircraft Egress (emergency)
Order and method of exit
Potential exit points (doors, windows, cargo
If and when to remain with aircraft 2.
Aircraft Egress (normal)
To maximize the effectiveness of such a checklist,
each item should be reviewed with the passengers prior to the flight, when time
constraints and workload are at a minimum. This is also when passengers will
feel the highest degree of comfort in voicing potential questions or concerns.
In the Final Analysis...
According to the most recent NTSB statistics, a GA accident occurs only once
every 14,896 flying hours. This may be of little comfort to passengers,
especially those with limited flying experience. Many pilots, not wishing to
compound these fears, often avoid a comprehensive briefing in the belief that
omitting the possibility of an accident will quell any misgivings. However,
passengers realize that each flight brings with it an element of risk, however
slight. Ignoring this possibility during a preflight briefing will only
intensify their anxieties. On the other hand, a well-prepared passenger briefing
will instill confidence in the pilot's professionalism and ensure that everyone
enjoys the highest degree of comfort and safety before, during, and after each
Mike Brown is the manager of Flight Standards'
General Aviation and Commercial Division's Certification Branch.