January 2010 Safety Article by Darrel Sauder


Given many rides to any unsuspecting individuals lately? Not much is written about private pilot passenger relationships. Plenty has been written about commercial carrier crew passenger relationships.       Soooo…there you are……. going to give a first ever (in a private single engine aircraft) ride to a guy or gal who has honored you with their trust. Remember the old saying…”first impressions etc”? Well, as you go about your business of trying your best to impress them, they are sizing you up. Now if you are a man pilot and your passenger is a cute, petite, mini-skirted, 22 year old, don’t lose your composure and go overboard with your John Wayne demeanor. However, you do need to give the impression that you are a trained, experienced pilot who knows what he is about. How do you do that? Not enough room here to delve into all that (especially  for some of us) but I am sure you get my drift.

PREFLIGHT (probably a good idea to do one.)  However, (remember ,there is  always a “however”) probably not a good idea to have them watch you at close range….too many distractions such as questions and pointy talky idle chit chat. This is an excellent opportunity to point them toward the nearest relief facility. If they claim they don’t have to go, explain in your best aviation jargon that bodily gasses expand at altitude and an elimination now will avoid an elimination problem later. Don’t mention that you might scare the crap out of them and it would help if they had none.

BRIEFING (another good idea.) A little blurb on what you are going to be doing, how it will feel, and if they don’t feel comfortable to let you know before they throw up on you but preferably in the sick bag that you have clearly pointed out the location of. Hopefully, you have chosen a perfect flying day with clear skies and very little wind.

ENGINE START  Once they get in your plane and prior to engine start is a good time to let them know a little bit about what you will be doing and you can always snow them with a little bit of aeronautical knowledge about your aircraft such as horsepower , take off roll distance, rate of climb, etc…however, watch for glazing of eyes. This is also a good time to brief them on emergency procedures.  If they turn white, become unresponsive, or go into autoflail, probably a good time to abort the mission. Another  good time to point out the location of the sick bag.

TAXI OUT   Save all the idle chit chat until you are at cruise but a little filling them in on what you are doing will aid their comfort level, help keep their blood pressure under control, and let them feel a part of what is going on.

THE FLIGHT   Keep things as smooth and non-abrupt as possible. You all ready know that you are the world’s greatest pilot but you don’t need to prove it again unless  you want to witness (1) sick bag use(2) autoflail , or (3) a letter from their lawyer when they sue you. By the way, did you know that according to a South Dakota statute (don’t have chapter and verse handy) that if you are flying a person not  for compensation or hire, and they get injured, they cannot sue you (appeared after the governors’s crash several  years ago). Don’t buzz their or your friend’s house, don’t harass wildlife, and don’t race down a railroad track toward an oncoming locomotive with your landing light on. Remember, big brother may be watching so play by the rules. By the way, none of those addictive “Watch This” routines either.

PATTERN, LANDING, TAXI IN   When you get back to the pattern, they may want to see a couple of touch and goes but leave out the engine outs, the no flaps, the on fires, and the Hail Marys. Try to make some small talk when taxiing in….stone silence from your passenger is not a good sign.

GOOD FEELING TIME:  Now that the flight is over, prepare yourself for all of the accolades, thank you’s and ego boosting comments that you can absorb. I am sure you would like it to go on for hours but try your best to get in a “Thank you for thanking me”, I ‘m glad that you enjoyed it (on the off chance that they did) or something to that effect.

THE HARDEST THING TO DO: Now ask you toughest critic (yourself) "How did I do and what could I have done better?"     

There you have it, "a painful elaboration of the obvious."

Fly Safe

Darrel W Sauder

EAA Chapter 39

Rapid City, South Dakota



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