After gaining your pilot’s licence and being given the freedom to take a plane and go fly places, one of the first things many of us do is invite the wife, kids, family or friends along for a ride.
But for many of us, this is the first time we’ll have carried passengers in the back, and you don’t have an instructor by your side telling you what to do.
Flying with passengers for the first time is one of the occasions that you’ll have to think about your flight properly. You’ll need to put your training to the test to make sure the aircraft is perfectly safe to fly, and that your passengers will be safe flying with you.
Here are some tips…
Flying with more than just yourself (or yourself and your instructor) will affect the performance of the aircraft, and it is important to think about things like the size and weight of your passengers (no easy way to put it!), and any baggage they may bring along.
With this in mind, it’s time to dust off the old weight and balance checks for your aircraft which will help you determine whether it is safe to fly given the runway, temperatures and weather.
Don’t try to be a hero and accommodate everyone if it is not safe to do so; carrying passengers means you are in charge of their safety and must make the right decisions.
It’s not just flight attendants who get to do this.
Remember when flying with passengers that they may never have been in a light aircraft before and will be unfamiliar with the layout and how everything works.
Take time before going anywhere to talk them through safety procedures, where the doors and latches are, how to use their seatbelts, where the fire extinguisher is, and what they must not touch or do.
You should also talk them through the flight. What should they expect? Where will you be flying? How long will the flight take?
Explain that if they feel unwell you can open air vents or pass them a sickness bag (you’ve got one handy, right?).
Getting Them Settled In And Comfortable
Whilst doing your walk around involve the passengers and explain what you’re looking at.
Then it’s time to get them inside the aircraft. Lead them to the door, tell them where to step and how to climb in safely. Show them where their seatbelt is, and where their headsets plug in if they have them.
In The Air
Once airborne and safely en-route, you can relax a little. Explain to the passengers – particularly if they can hear you through their headsets – where you are, how high you are, and how fast you’re travelling. Point out any local landmarks and encourage them to relax, take pictures, smile!
You must ensure the safe navigation and flying as always, but remember to involve your passengers as much as possible to check they’re feeling ok and whether they have any questions.
If you have a passenger alongside you in the cockpit, you could let them have a go at flying if you deem it safe to do so. Let them get a feel for the controls and try some simple maneuvers.
Preparing to Land
Again, like on an airline flight, it makes sense to get everyone prepared well before landing. You may not have tray tables to put in the upright position, but you need to make sure your passengers are still strapped in tightly.
Take control back from your co-pilot passenger, and explain to everyone that you will be landing shortly.
Remember to keep your concentration on the flight at all times, and not on your passengers. Flying with passengers can be difficult to juggle, especially if you have children on board, or someone who feels unwell. But most of the time this can be one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a pilot’s licence!