How well do you brief your passenger(s) before flight?

Passenger briefAccidents in Light Sport Aircraft are a relatively rare occurrence. As a result, pilots can be lulled into thinking that the pre-flight passenger safety briefing is a bit of a chore and perhaps not really essential. However, accidents do happen and sometimes a little information for your passenger(s) can make a big difference to their and possibly your own survival.

Do you know?
– the only mandated part of the passenger safety briefing in light aircraft concerns the use of the safety belts
– it is not mandatory to carry a suitable fire extinguisher in the aircraft
– most pilots do not carry an emergency survival kit unless they plan to fly long distance, yet most accidents happen relatively close to home
– the emergency frequency on the VHF radio

Does your passenger know?
– how to stop the door jamming shut during a rough (crash) landing
– how to call for help on the aircraft radio or sat-phone
– how to activate an ELT/PLB emergency beacon

In summary, before flight make sure to tell your passenger(s):
– how to use their safety belt correctly
– how to open and close the aircraft doors
– where the emergency beacon(s) is/are located and how to activate it/them
– where the back-up handheld VHF radio is located and how to use it
– how to call for help on the emergency VHF frequency
– where the emergency survival kit is located and what it contains
– how to switch off the aircraft electrical system
– to stay with the aircraft after an accident, unless they can clearly see habitation or a road

The length of the briefing will be determined by your passenger(s) – a first-time passenger may need a little more time than a seasoned flyer. Whatever, the briefing shouldn’t need more than 2-3 minutes.

As a final thought – it’s sometimes difficult for a passenger to recall every aspect of your pre-flight briefing, so have you considered making up a passenger safety briefing card?  It can repeat your verbal briefing and give more information on specific aspects – eg how to change frequency on the VHF radio(s) and how to activate the emergency beacon. AOPA – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association – has released an example of a customisable passenger briefing card, which covers emergency equipment and rescue. You can print this out and adapt it for your own needs.

Finally, to help you with some more insights into passenger briefings, AOPA has also released an excellent video on passenger safety, with a focus on the pre-flight briefing.

Remember – unlikely as it may be, you may be incapacitated yourself and a well-briefed passenger may save your life!

Personal Locator Beacon (PLB/ELT/EPIRB)

GME ELTMy personal locator beacon (PLB) battery expired recently – not, I hasten to add because I have been using it but because the battery has a finite life (in this case, 7 years), during which it is guaranteed to operate.

The beacon I have is a GME 410G, a superb, small, accurate and relatively inexpensive unit. My initial call to the GME service centre suggested they would change the battery free of charge – “great” I thought, after all, there’s not much aviation that’s free these days….But after trekking all the way there, the service person told me this was only applicable to new units (ie sold recently) not to mine. They would replace the battery for me at a cost – which was actually not much less than the cost of a new unit. And their replacement battery was only warranted a year, whereas the complete new unit has a 7-year warranty.

So buying a new unit became (almost) a no-brainer.

I started to look for a supplier. It soon became clear that aviation stockists charge a higher price than marine stockists. I guess this is because there are more boaties out there than pilots, but the difference between suppliers can be quite substantial. In fact, one marine stockist actually quoted me less than the replacement battery cost from GME – so it pays to shop around.

Overall, though, the coast works out at less than A$45 a year – less than a dollar a week – for legal compliance and at least some peace of mind if you do have to put down in the middle of nowhere. The GPS-equipped GME gives a re-assuring accuracy of around 100 metres.

An important point to remember: your PLB must be registered when new and then re-registered every two years with the AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) and their sticker applied to it. A CASA contact tells me that out of date PLB stickers are a common issue at ramp checks – remember, you must have a working, registered beacon if you fly more than 25 nautical miles from your base airfield.