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The 8-point perfect passenger briefing

As Chief Flying Instructor for Aerobility for 15 years, Mike Owen has plenty of experience handling all sorts of passengers. Here are his top tips for briefings

Briefing passengers in a light aircraft
Make sure your passenger(s) is comfortable and knows how to operate the seatbelt, and how to exit in an emergency. Photo: Wingly

Part of the fun of flying is sharing your passion with passengers and you, as captain, have a legal responsibility* for the safety of your passengers and must brief them. Ideally, the briefing will start before they get anywhere near the aircraft and you can encapsulate all the required and advisory safety points across a set of briefings.

Here are some ideas how you could tailor the contents of a set of appropriate briefings for your passengers depending what stage of the flight you are at. The briefings do not have to be to a rigid formula and are often in the form of help.



If you do not know your passengers, then introduce yourself and explain what the flight will involve, such as, where you are going and what to expect your passengers could see. If going abroad, check everyone has their passports!

If flying over the sea passengers need to wear life-jackets, which must NOT be inflated inside the aircraft



Express how safety is a priority and taken seriously in General Aviation. Depending on the airfield, they may need to wear a high visibility jacket when airside.

If the flight is over the sea (definitely if beyond glide distance from land), they will need to wear life jackets. Help them put the life jackets on and show how the jackets would be inflated if they were in the water. Stress that they must not operate their jacket inside the aircraft as it would stop them exiting the aircraft. 

If you are carrying a dinghy then cover the operation of the dinghy – including retrieval, clearing the aircraft and inflation.

Moving on, cover the importance of look-out and encourage reporting any sighting of other aircraft. Describe the clock code and give some examples.

Before you get near the aircraft describe how your passengers should behave on the airfield. Stress the dangers of propellers and aircraft. Ensure that passengers are aware that they cannot just wander around on the airfield and should accompany you to your aircraft.

When you approach your aircraft ensure the passengers approach from the back and avoid going near the propeller. Be aware if they get their phones out to start taking photos as they will usually gather by the front of the aircraft.

In summary, my suggested toolkit of safety briefing points given before going airside could include:

  • Beware of parked aircraft, moving aircraft and keep away from their propeller(s) even if not running.
  • You will need to wear a high visibility jacket when airside.
  • Report any aircraft sightings to me ideally using the clock code – such as 3 o’clock if on our right, or 9 o’clock if on our left.
  • R/T – if I’m talking to air traffic please do not interrupt unless for safety reasons. Sometimes I will say ‘Quiet’, as I may be listening to air traffic.
  • Any questions?

 If flying over the sea:

  • We will have to wear life jackets. Let me help you put them on and if you have to operate them then we’d pull this toggle (just point it out!).
  • It is better to put them on before getting in the aircraft and keep them on until we land.
  • Do not inflate inside the aircraft.
  • If carrying a dinghy – in the event of ditching, we will retrieve the dinghy from the aircraft and inflate it once it is clear.

 Let’s get out to the aircraft and fly.

light aircraft doors open
Always ensure that passengers know how to get into the aircraft, how to open the door and use the seats. Photo: Wingly


Getting on board

Any baggage should be secured inside the baggage compartment unless very small items.

Demonstrate how to get into the aircraft, open the door and use the seats. For example, on a PA28 there is only one door and the passengers have to step onto the wing walk area and then get down into the aircraft. 

Potential risks here are:

  • Slipping off the step.
  • Walking off the strengthened walkway strip onto other parts of the wing.
  • Banging their head as they duck down to get into the aircraft.



In-aircraft briefing

Once everyone is seated inside the aircraft give the following briefing points:

  • Demonstrate how to open and close the door(s) and check they are secure.
  • Show how to fasten, adjust and unfasten seat belts and if fitted, the shoulder harness(es).
  • Remind them the seat belts and harnesses are worn throughout the flight. You will let them know when they can undo them after stopping at the destination.
  • It is very important on aircraft where the seat moves to get the front seat passenger to check that their seat is secured in position. You do not want the passenger’s seat to move back causing them to grab the controls by instinct.
  • Show them the fire extinguisher, how it is unclipped, how it should be operated and when it is appropriate.
  • Point out the first aid kit and describe the circumstances when it might be used.
  • Show how to use the air vents, how they adjust and explain that we have heating if required – which you should control.
  • Demonstrate the brace position and explain that in the event of an emergency you would give a command “brace, brace, brace” and the passengers should adopt the brace position. You may need the front seat passenger to assist you to unlatch the door if there is only one.
  • Describe the actions on exiting the aircraft during an emergency to move away to the rear of the aircraft and avoid the propeller.
map reading
Photo: Wingly


Captain’s briefing

When everyone is fastened in, the aircraft is started and headsets are on, do a communications check to make sure you can hear everyone. This is very important as your passengers can help with aircraft traffic spotting and reporting – or letting you know if they feel ill. 

You can now give a summary of the flight and the importance of not touching the controls and using seat belts. 

We can summarise this as your Captain’s briefing including:

  • The runway in use.
  • Weather conditions to be expected during the flight.
  • Flight profile – where we are going, what altitude and duration.
  • Ensure that the front seat passenger is aware to not touch any of the controls, switches, rudder pedals etc.
  • Mention that when you are talking to air traffic services you will need to ensure the passengers remain quiet and that you will tell them to be quiet when necessary.


Emergency briefing

Between the run up area and the hold is a good time to give the emergency briefing  (or some form of it) to remind yourself and the passengers what could happen in the unlikely event of an emergency on take-off:

  • If there is any problem on the runway after I have started the take-off run, I will close the throttle and bring the aircraft to a halt.
  • If we are airborne and there is still usable runway ahead, I will close the throttle and land on the runway and bring the aircraft to halt.
  • If we are airborne and have no runway ahead, then I will look for a safe place to land within 30° either side of the runway.

Please ensure you, as pilot-in-command, are familiar with your emergency procedures if there are any engine or aircraft issues after departure, especially if they may involve a forced landing without power. It is something that I rehearse with pilots on a checkout flight as you never know when you may need it (hopefully never!).

It's always good to point out anything of interest while airborne. Photo: Wingly


Traffic spotting

During the flight encourage your passengers to report any air traffic to you and to ask questions when you are not talking to air traffic services. Point out any interesting sites or ground features. When you are nearing your destination airfield ask everyone to be quiet during this phase as it is likely to be busy on the radio.


Arriving and post-flight

After landing and shutdown it is time to help your passengers exit the aircraft and get them safely back off the airfield. Post flight, gather headsets and lifejackets (if used), stow them and secure the aircraft.

Then it is time to enjoy a drink and maybe a meal – depending on your plans and the destination. It’s a great time to relive the flight and answer questions.

 *CAA Safety Sense leaflet 02: “It is a legal requirement under the Air Navigation Order (non-Part-21 aircraft) and Air Operations Regulation (Part-21 aircraft) that the pilot in command brief passengers on the safety and emergency procedures relevant to the flight.”


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