Acknowledgements: FLYING LESSONS - Thomas P. Turner, Mastery Flight Training Inc.

 (Ed.Note: This topic has been covered regularly, but i make no apology for including it again! The following is extracted from Thomas’ FLYING LESSONS weekly, 19thSeptember 2019, in which he also refers to an article by FAA Safety Briefing Editor Susan Parson which suggests the elements of a good passenger safety briefing)

Preparing the Cabin and Your Passengers for Touchdown:

To begin, “touchdown” is the optimal outcome. But you need to prepare the cabin and your passengers for impact as well. Most of what you need to do to prepare the aircraft and its occupants for a possible off-airport landing, you need to do before you ever take off

 Let’s start with the aircraft:

Even fairly small things like flashlights and screwdrivers can become deadly missiles in a crash - prepare your aircraft for an off-airport landing by really securing items in the cabin before you take off. Anything heavy should be tied down or held behind strong nets or webbing. 

 Let’s now address pre-flight preparation of the people who put their lives in your hands when they board your aircraft.  These elements include:

 Seat belts and shoulder harnesses

Under FAA rules, “you cannot legally take off unless the pilot-in-command ensures that each person on board is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten that person’s seat belt and, if installed, a shoulder harness. Further, no pilot may take off, land, or cause an aircraft to be moved on the surface unless all passengers have fastened their seat belt and, if installed, a shoulder harness ...”. So, you need to show passengers how to buckle and unbuckle (for purposes of evacuation) the restraints, and how to tighten them for flight and cinch them down as far as possible if you direct for an off-airport landing. FLYING LESSONS readers are probably aware of my strong stance toward shoulder harness installation and use ... The FAA and NTSB have repeatedly advised pilots on the tremendous survival advantage of shoulder restraints in survivable airplane crashes ... Use seat belts and shoulder harnesses at all times - you won’t have time to fasten a shoulder harness when you need it.

 Emergency exits and evacuation

Passengers need to know:

1.   HOW to activate emergency exists, including alternates to the door through which they boarded the aircraft (such as openable windows and baggage doors). If a passenger isn’t able to open the exit or you don’t trust him/her with the knowledge, it’s wise to bring along a companion who is capable and can be trusted ... The seating and exits configuration of some airplanes will require passengers to exit in a particular order. You need to tell them how to get out safely, and to be ready to enforce that direction if the time comes.

2.   WHEN to evacuate. As part of your passenger safety briefing make it clear that if you give a signal, such as “Evacuate! Evacuate! Evacuate!” that they should exit the airplane. 

3.   WHERE TO GO after an evacuation to get safely away from the aircraft. I brief passengers that unless conditions make it impossible after exiting the aircraft, they should move toward the tail of the airplane and keep going until they are far away. I’m directing them to go away from the things which may burn(the engine and fuel tanks), and to an area where we can all meet up to ensure everyone is out of the aircraft.

 Now that the airplane and occupants are prepared for flight, think about what you will do during an engine-out descent to maximise the chances of survival. First, their (your) best chances result if you continue to fly the airplane to a landing with Wings level, Under control at the Slowest Safe speed

 As you do this, remind your passengers to do two things:

1.   Secure loose objects in seat pockets or inside purses or bags, if there’s time.

2.   Tighten seat belts and shoulder harnesses to the point of feeling uncomfortable. 

 And tell them you are going to do two things:

1.   Unlatch doors and/or windows as appropriate to the airplane type. Tell them this is to make it easier to exit once the airplane comes to a stop. Tell them it will be windy, but it is entirely safe to fly with the doors or windows unlatched in an emergency.

2.   You’ll tell them, loudly, when it’s time to unlatch seat belts and evacuate the airplane. They are not to start until you tell them to do so, unless the airplane has obviously stopped moving and you are not able to direct evacuation.

 Expect your passengers to be scared to the point of panic. You need to step up and command, in a command voice, what you need them to do - this may help to calm them and focus them on their immediate survival needs.

Let’s be honest. We don’t want to have to have this type of discussion with our passengers. It may scare some away from flying with you, ever. But you owe it to those who trust you to prepare them for the very unlikely event of an off-airport landing. 

 But make sure, at a bare minimum, they know: 

1.   how and when to use seat belts 

2.   how and when to get out of the airplane in an emergency 

3.   where to go after they do. 

 So, prepare your passengers and the aircraft before flight, and know what you’ll do as you descend toward an emergency landing, and you’ll be able to protect as best as possible those who trust you with their lives , while your primary focus must remain (as Bob Hoover famously said) on “flying the airplane as far into the crash as possible.” 


Tony Birth