Prepare Your Passengers

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to go for a fun flight with friends and family. If you’re taking someone up for the first time, it’s important to prepare him or her for the journey with a comprehensive preflight briefing. This conversation goes far beyond explaining how to enter and exit the airplane and use the seatbelts, and it will go a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for your passengers.

Just like an instructor’s pre-lesson discussion, expect your briefing to take about an hour. Make sure you take this time into consideration when you’re planning your day, particularly if you’re flying somewhere for lunch or meeting up with other pilots.

While you’re doing the preflight inspection of the airplane, talk about what you’re looking for and what makes the airplane fly. You don’t need to go into detail, just talk loosely about how the control surfaces make the airplane climb, descend and turn, and how the wings create lift.

If you’re going to fly in controlled airspace, tell your passengers it’s important to stay quiet while you’re listening to or communicating with ATC. Specify a brief verbal cue and a hand signal that means “quiet!” and tell them that no matter what point the conversation is at, it needs to stop immediately when you make the signal. If your intercom has the capability of isolating the pilot, you could allow the conversation to continue. But you should use similar verbal and/or visual cues when you’re going off line.

You should also tell your passengers to stay quiet during the takeoff and climb, and approach and landing phases. Explain that these are the most challenging parts of the flight, there will be frequent ATC or CTAF communications and that you need to concentrate 100 percent on the task at hand.

You should also talk about how a small airplane performs since it is quite different from a large jet. You could compare it to riding in a car versus a bus. For example, explain what the attitude of the airplane will be during the takeoff and landing, and how turbulence is more perceptible in a small airplane compared with a large one.

Turbulence or three-dimensional movement in general could cause some people to feel airsick. Airsickness is rare, but with the consumption of turkey, stuffing, tasty side dishes and perhaps a few too many drinks the night before the flight (well, you as a pilot better not have), the possibility is present. It’s better to be prepared than to ruin the airplane’s interior and the ailing passenger’s pride. Bring sick sacks and let your passengers know where they are so they can simply grab them instead of having to ask questions in an embarrassing and time-critical situation.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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