Safety: The reward and delight of offering a flight

The flying season has arrived. Hangar doors open for fun get-togethers, pilots eagerly look at the sky, and airplanes emerge awaiting their next flight. Are you and other club members ready to offer rides and share the spectacle of seeing the earth from above? Remember to make those flights safe and pleasant—whether taking up friends and family or joining a volunteer pilot organization to offer free transportation for persons in need of help. Here are some tips. 

Are you good to go?

Non-pilot passengers depend completely on your ability to assess go-no/go decisions based on your prudent self-assessment (IMSAFE), the weather, the airplane, how comfortable a ride it will be, and potential situations that could jeopardize the safe outcome of the flight. So before committing, take stock of your health, skills, and proficiency. Respond honestly to your assessment and take steps to address any areas that need to be resolved.

Passenger comfort

Consider your flying companions’ comfort before and during the flight. Brief them ahead of time about what to expect. For example, advise passengers to bring along sunglasses and dress comfortably and appropriately for the aircraft you’re flying. Remind them about the lack of toilet facilities in-flight and mention the possibility that the flight might need to be rescheduled due to weather, unforeseen maintenance issues, etc. Anticipate weather conditions that could affect their comfort, such as hot and humid summer days or gusty winds and turbulence at altitude. You should reschedule when these elements are in play to avoid a bad experience.

It’s a go!

On the day of the flight, give an update on expected conditions. Before walking across the ramp, discuss ramp safety including the danger of spinning propellers. Help your passengers use the appropriate handholds and stepping areas to board the aircraft. Make sure they know how to adjust and lock their seats and explain the use of seatbelts.

Cabin briefing

Once everyone is seated comfortably and securely, demonstrate how to open and close the doors. Show the location of sick sacks, emergency exits and windows, and emergency equipment—such as fire extinguishers and survival gear—and how to use these. Explain the need for a sterile cockpit during taxi, takeoff, approach, and landing. Make sure they know to tell you if they feel ill, so you can land if needed. If this is a passenger’s first flight, describe how the engine sound may change during climb, cruise, and descent, and that gear retraction/extension might make a brief noise.

If you plan carefully and are considerate of your passengers’ comfort level before and during the flight everyone will reap tremendous rewards. Now, go share your flying passion and elevate your own flying experience at the same time.

For more in-depth guidance on taking up non-pilot passengers or participating in volunteer flying, the AOPA Air Safety Institute has several free programs that can help.

  • Pinch Hitter™ course and syllabus: Help non-pilot companions become more comfortable in the cockpit—even participate as an effective crewmember while enjoying their flying adventure. The course and syllabus introduce the principles of flight and provide an overview of flight instruments and radio communication.
  • Public Benefit Flying course: Volunteer flying demands an extra level of commitment and professionalism, like that of commercial flight crews. Public Benefit Flying: Balancing Safety and Compassion profiles real-world public benefit flight scenarios that allow you to practice decision-making skills for safe choices.

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