When it comes to taking flight, safety is the most important factor in anyone’s checklist. You shouldn’t ever consider getting into an aircraft if you have any doubts about its safety. We’ve put together a downloadable handy safety brief checklist.
During the first phase of your flight training, your PPL, everything you’re doing is geared towards safety. Acronym memory checklists such as ‘BUMFREDAS’ and ‘FREDA’ are all designed so you are constantly monitoring the aircraft’s systems.
For anyone with a pilot’s licence, whether it be commercial or private, one of the most joyous occasions is when you get the opportunity to take your family and friends for a flight. Giving a passenger safety briefing to them may seem like a strange concept, given that the only time you’ll have likely come across one is when you were sat on a commercial airliner. But it can be argued that the brief in a light aircraft is more important than that given by a commercial airline.
Your passenger, who will probably be sat in the front right seat of your aircraft, makes up the second member of your crew. Your First Officer if you like. And if you’re in an aircraft with a single exit and entry door, such as a Piper PA28, you will need to thoroughly teach them how to operate the door, as this may well save yours and their lives. In this article we will run down the thirteen points of SAFETY and explain each point to help you properly brief your passengers and we have also included a handy free passenger safety brief checklist to pop in your knee-board.
The S in SAFETY
Seat Belts – The seat belt configuration can be different in the many variants of light aircraft. There can even be some differences within the same variants, depending on age and model. But the principles behind proper use of a seat belt still remains the same. The belt should be fastened for all phases of flight and ensure that it isn’t fastened too tightly, as it may make the wearer feel uncomfortable. You should also ensure it isn’t fastened so tightly as to restrict the wearer from reaching out for any safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, exits, or flight controls if required.
Shoulder Harnesses – Not all aircraft are fitted with a shoulder harness, but if yours is, all occupants of your aircraft should be wearing theirs at all phases of flight. Ensure that they are attached to the seat belt properly if they come as two separate entities and ensure that they are adjusted properly, again not to much as to restrict movement or access around the aircraft.
Seat Position – The position of a seat is as much about comfort as it is about safety. The seat needs to be ideally positioned so that access to equipment and doors isn’t hindered in an emergency situation. If your “First Officer” is also a competent pilot, you may want to have them positioned so that they may take control of the aircraft if required. Finally, its very important that you check, double check and triple check that the seat is locked into position. The last thing you want is the seat sliding backwards during the take-off roll or during turbulence. There have been many cases of people reaching for controls as the seat slides backwards and ending up with the aircraft in an undesired state.
The A in SAFETY
Air Vents – The air vents in an aircraft are seen initially as a comfort feature rather than a safety feature. But during an emergency, such as smoke in the aircraft or strong odours, the flow of air created by fully opening the vents can be life saving. As the person in charge, you will instigate any emergency procedures. But the vents may be out of your reach, so its important that your passengers know how to open and close them. On a comfort level, the vents can also be used if your passenger is beginning to feel too hot or uncomfortable.
All Environmental Factors – As a part of your brief, you will want to inform your passengers of the weather conditions. They’re not going to be interested in the QNH and the dew point, but they will want to know if its going to be hot or cold, or if they can expect a particularly turbulent flight. You may want to give them an idea of the flight time as well, they may not be aware that this is affected by head and tail winds!
Action in the Event of Occupant Discomfort/Sickness – You must explain to your passengers that if they begin to feel sick or uncomfortable during the flight, they must inform you immediately. The more notice you’re given, the more chance you have to plan a diversion or a return to your home field. This also reduces the chances of you have to perform a deep clean of the aircraft’s interior! If this is a passenger’s first flight, there’s a chance they may not enjoy it as much as you do. The last thing you want is a passenger in full panic when you’re trying to operate the aircraft. Encourage them to inform you the moment they begin to feel uncomfortable.
The F in SAFETY
Fire Extinguisher – It’s important that you brief all the occupants of the aircraft on the location or locations if more than one, of the aircraft’s fire extinguisher and how to operate it or them. Describe to them what to expect if they are needed to deploy it. It’s likely you’ll be relying on them should it be required as you’ll most likely be in control of the aircraft and the communications.
The E in SAFETY
Exit Door – Your passenger will most likely already be aware of the location of the nearest door, as that’s how they’ll enter the aircraft. However, it’s important to run through the operation of the door as it may have more than one mechanism to secure the door. Your aircraft may only have the one door, such as a Piper PA28, so you should explain to them that all occupants will be exiting by their door. You should also make them aware that if the need to open the door arises while the propeller is still turning, they should expect a high level of resistance when opening it.
Emergency Evacuation Plan – Your emergency evacuation plan should consider all possible scenarios you could encounter in an emergency situation. Everything from smoke in the aircraft to a forced landing on water. You should brief your passengers on these eventualities and how they should act in each. You should make them aware of what emergency equipment is available and when and where it should be deployed. Remind them to exit the aircraft and move towards the rear – away from the propeller and the engine.
You should also discuss the order in which occupants will exit the aircraft. If you have an electrical issue, you may have to turn off the radios which in turn will make it harder to communicate in the aircraft.
Emergency Equipment – You should show all occupants in your aircraft the locations of all the emergency equipment onboard. You may have life jackets, a raft, a fire extinguisher. You should also provide instructions on their use as you may be busy and may rely on them to make use of the equipment. Make sure your passengers are confident of their use.
The T in SAFETY
Traffic Scanning – Your passengers will spend a long time looking out of the window, taking in the views, especially if they’re first time flyers. So you should put them to good use and ask them to keep an eye out for any other aircraft.
Talking – You may want to employ a no talking rule during the take off and landing phases of your flight, for concentration purposes. You should also brief your passengers as to the amount of radio chatter you can expect during the flight. Work out a strategy that best works for you, some people like to raise their hand when they’re listening to a radio communication, just let your passengers know you’re not being rude, they’ll understand!
The Y in SAFETY
Your Questions – This is the point where you ask your passengers if they have any questions. Give them opportunity to ask as many as they like to help them feel comfortable if they are first time flyers or nervous.