Needless to say, in a little Cessna, Piper or a similar GA airplane, a passenger briefing is even more critical due to the cabin's small size and the passenger's proximity to flight controls -- not to mention required by law (CAR 602.89).
Unfortunately, you probably do not have a flight attendant in your four-seater, so you'll have to provide the briefing yourself.
Here is what the CARs require you to cover during your briefings:
- The location and use of normal and emergency exits. Demonstrate how to open and close the hatch. Also, explain that in conventional light aircraft, the windows can be dislodged with kicking force. Have the passenger next to the door open and close the door so that you are sure he or she is familiar.
- The location and use of the Emergency Locator Transmitter2—explain that the ELT is designed to automatically transmit a distress signal in the event of sudden deceleration, but that for confirmation purposes it must be switched on and left on as soon as possible after a crash. Some portable ELTs should be removed and placed on a high metal surface to increase transmission strength. Be sure you know if your ELT is portable.
- The location and use of the fire extinguisher—that it is conventional in use, requiring the removal of a pin, etc.
- The location and use of the first aid kit.
- Point out the location of the survival equipment.
- When life jackets or life rafts are required, describe their location and use.
- Smoking limitations.
- Use of seat belts—be sure passengers actually attach and detach their seat belts for familiarity. Remind them that the belts must be as secure as possible during takeoff and landing, or during an emergency (this is important for surviving a rapid g-force deceleration).3
- The position and securing of seat backs and chair tables.
- The stowage of carry-on baggage.
- Actions to be taken in the event of an emergency landing—baggage must be stored, seat backs in the upright position, seat belts must be tightened, sharp objects should be removed from pocket, dentures should be removed. The passenger sitting next to an exit must be specifically briefed that they are to open the door when asked to do so by you—just before an emergency landing.
A Few Considerations
1. It is best to start your briefing before the passengers get into the airplane. This allows for:
- making sure they are safe on the apron (e.g., warn them not to walk in front of propellers)
- ensuring that they know where things like the baggage door, the ELT, fire extinguisher and fire extinguisher are located
- explaining how to get into the plane (that can surprisingly tricky!) and adjust seat and seatbelt
2. In addition to the required items above, it is a good idea to brief the passengers on a few other items that will help everyone enjoy the flight.
- RADIO and INTERCOM - Here is what you might say to the passengers: When we talk into the microphone on our headset, no one but us will hear it unless this button on the control column gets pushed and held. So please don't talk when you hear me speak on the radio or when you hear someone else's transmission. I'll put a hand up if I need you to stop talking. Also, try not to distract me during and right after take-off, since it's a very busy time for me. I'll let you know when the workload eases up and we can chat.
- CABIN HEAT, AIR, VENTS - Explain how to adjust those for comfortable air temperature.
- TRAFFIC: It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes in the sky. You could tell the passenger the following: Point with your finger, if you see another plane, helicopter or anything else flying in the sky. Don't point at anything else, to avoid confusion.
3. You don't have to memorize your passenger brief! Just like with other flying items, you can make yourself a checklist that contains all the passenger briefing items, to make sure you don't omit any during the actual briefing.
4. You might want to develop passenger briefings for various stages of flight (e.g., pre-landing). Here is a sample one from Transport Canada.
5. When briefing your passengers, ensure you have their full attention by telling them that you'll be giving them important safety information; however, do reassure them that an emergency is extremely unlikely to happen -- some of your passengers may be nervous when you start talking about crash landings and fire extinguishers!