Pilot incapacitation contributes to very few accidents. But even if you’re in good health, you can never predict when you will become medically debilitated. If you become one of those unfortunate few, you’ll be very happy knowing there is a backup pilot in the cockpit that can get you down safely.
If you fly regularly with a non-pilot, whether it’s your significant other or one of your children or friends, think about giving him or her a pinch-hitter course. This type of training provides your passenger with enough knowledge to safely get the airplane down on the ground.
AOPA has a free online program that is a very good prep course for non-pilot copilots. The course includes information about what makes an airplane fly, how the flight instruments operate, different forms of navigation, emergency procedures and how to operate the radios. There are also flight scenarios and quizzes.
But the ground training won’t make your passenger capable of landing an airplane. You need to get your copilot some flight instruction as well. A few hours of training may be required, but it will be well worth it. At a minimum, make sure that your passenger learns how to communicate with ATC, find an airport and safely land the airplane.
The benefits of the pinch-hitter course go far beyond the added safety. Your passenger will most likely enjoy flying with you even more after learning what makes the airplane fly and how to manipulate the controls. And the two of you will be able to communicate on a whole new level about the joy of flying. Perhaps he or she will even continue the training and get a private pilot’s certificate.