Monday, 17 November 2014

The perils of passengers

The whole point of getting your PPL is to fly places and take people with you. Your training more than adequately covers the former activity but leaves you woefully unprepared for the latter.

Beyond telling you the legal points you need to cover in your safety briefing, no one mentions anything else beyond that.

Time for some willing victims, I mean volunteers. People who I can practice the fickle art of being a pilot on.

Cue K and M. Both inquisitive and intelligent and willing to provide honest feedback on how I performed from a passenger management point of view. Especially with K being a slightly nervous passenger, it was good practice for my being the kind and reassuring voice of reason.

After having the privilege of taking them on a flight, I now have time to review my performance.
Firstly, I’ve learnt that no matter how much you tell them to be careful on the apron, the second your back is turned, they will walk into your airplane (twice in M’s case!)

I also need to work on my passenger brief a little to make sure there is no ambiguity about what I’m talking about. I didn’t want to use the word “crash” or anything along those lines when talking about emergency landings, so I tend to use the phrase “If we need to land somewhere other than an airport” as a euphemism for a forced landing. K got a little confused when I described the procedure for covering your face and opening the door prior to touchdown. She thought I meant for any landing. I’ll work on that for sure.

Generally though they agreed that I got the balance between telling them enough to reassure and inform them without overloading them with too much info.

K mentioned that it was a little unnerving when it took me a few seconds of cranking to get the engine to catch. That’s a tough one, it was a cold day but the engine was warm, always tricky to decide between a hot and cold start. I don’t like to overprime as fuel injected engines can be prone to vapour lock.

One thing I did do that was kind of sneaky and I’m just a little bit proud of, is also kind of funny. K warned me that she doesn’t like takeoffs in particular. I knew exactly what she meant. It used to be my least favourite thing when travelling as a passenger with RTH.

K and I are very similar in some ways (we both have similar OCD rituals on the way to work for example). I was worried that she’d do what I’ve heard stories about some passengers doing, namely panicking and grabbing on to the first thing available. When you are in the front seat, that thing could be the control column.

That can’t happen. A diversion is needed. K needed a job. A very important one.

K became guardian of Bob (the bear, from this post). Sure enough, it kept her hands occupied, Bob spent the flight being firmly held in her lap or tucked under her arm. When things got a bit bumpy, he got a reassuring squeeze.

Funny but effective.

Looking back at the video (it’ll be on YouTube soon) I think I need to provide a little bit more commentary on the local area. I was a little quiet but K and M didn’t seem to complain. They were very good at stopping talking whenever anything was going on radiowise. I’d talked to them about this beforehand. Actually M seemed fairly interested in the radio chatter. He could barely comprehend how I managed to take in what was being thrown at me at such a rapid pace and understand it, let alone formulate a response.

I’d love to tell him that it was some special magical skill but we all know how much I struggled with this at the start. The truth is, it is purely practice. Nothing else.

All in all, it was a fantastic first passenger flight and has given me much to think about in regards to my next passengers.

I can’t wait to be up there again!


  1. Sounds like a good flight.

    I brief my passengers on engine starts, telling them that I'm going to start cranking now but not to be alarmed if it takes a few goes to catch. It seems to work, as I've not had anyone express concern about starting.

    -- D

    1. Honestly it wasn't something that occurred to me that might cause anxiety to a passenger. I know for next time.