Section 602.89 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations establishes that passenger briefings1 are required before each flight, and must contain the following information:

  1. The location and use of normal and emergency exits.  Demonstrate how to open and close the hatch.  Also, explain that in conventional light aircraft, the windows can be dislodged with kicking force.  Have the passenger next to the door open and close the door so that you are sure he or she is familiar.
  2. The location and use of the Emergency Locator Transmitter2—explain that the ELT is designed to automatically transmit a distress signal in the event of sudden deceleration, but that for confirmation purposes it must be switched on and left on as soon as possible after a crash.  Some portable ELTs should be removed and placed on a high metal surface to increase transmission strength.  Be sure you know if your ELT is portable.
  3. The location and use of the fire extinguisher—that it is conventional in use, requiring the removal of a pin, etc.
  4. The location and use of the first aid kit.
  5. Point out the location of the survival equipment.
  6. When life jackets or life rafts are required, describe their location and use.
  7. Smoking limitations.
  8. Use of seat belts—be sure passengers actually attach and detach their seat belts for familiarity.  Remind them that the belts must be as secure as possible during takeoff and landing, or during an emergency (this is important for surviving a rapid g-force deceleration).3
  9. The position and securing of seat backs and chair tables.
  10. The stowage of carry-on baggage.
  11. Actions to be taken in the event of an emergency landing—baggage must be stored, seat backs in the upright position, seat belts must be tightened, sharp objects should be removed from pocket, dentures should be removed.  The passenger sitting next to an exit must be specifically briefed that they are to open the door when asked to do so by you—just before an emergency landing.

There are some additional practical considerations that you might want to make in passenger safety briefings.  Caution the front passenger regarding free movement of the control column and the rudder pedals.  Do not hesitate to ask your passengers to remain silent during landings and takeoffs.  Most importantly, however, remember that you are giving your passengers information that may save their lives.  When finished, ask if anyone has any questions.  While briefing passengers may feel awkward to you at first, you can be assured that your passengers view it as being professional—any awkwardness will disappear with practise.

The process of flight training is really quite misleading with respect to the requirements and necessity of passenger briefings—we get into a routine of not providing a passenger briefing as staff and students are familiar with the aircraft and emergency procedures.  It is quite a different story when you fly with passengers after getting your licence—passengers, of course, know nothing about emergencies during flight operations, and they are totally dependent on getting this crucial information from you, the pilot.  The Flight Test Examiner, of course, will expect to be treated like a real passenger.

Further Readings:

Transport Canada's Passenger Briefing Safety

Transport Canada's Importance of Underwater-Egress Pre-Flight Briefing for Passengers


1 Passengers are sometimes not aware they are receiving critical information related to safety—remember that they are nervous and anxious 99% of the time (unless you have the pleasure of flying with veteran small-aircraft passengers).  When you start your briefing, get your passengers’ attention—“. . I have some very important information for you related to safety during this flight .  .” or  “. . there is some information you must be aware of prior to flight related to safety . .”

2 Many Instructors feel the ELT is best briefed while your passengers are still outside the aircraft—they can see where the ELT is actually located.  ELT description should include how it can be identified—it is the shape of a small radio and is yellow or orange in colour, a very brief description of how the ELT is activated (it is set in the “armed” position, but should be turned to the “on” position in the event of an emergency), how the signal is, in the case of 406 ELTs, picked up by satellites, or how, in the case of 125.5 ELTs, the frequency is monitored by ATC, and sometimes overflying aircraft.  In the case of 406 ELTs, explaine how COSPAS and SARSAT satellites automatically home-in on the geographic co-ordinates of the aircraft (to which Search and Rescue (SAR) are automatically dispatched—for this reason, passengers have the best chance of being found if they stay with the aircraft.

3 Tight seat belts are an important key to surviving a crash—the idea being that the human body must not be subjected to a sudden deceleration (which is deadly), but should instead be subject to deceleration over the longest period of time possible.  Aviation Safety Specialist emphasise that it is critical for the pilot to avoid during an emergency landing any “fixed object” that might cause the rapid deceleration.  (This was effectively communicated by one of these specialists who said that the pilot’s main job is to spread-out the aircraft wreckage as much as possible.)