No Lip Service
February 29, 2012
Ask your unit to conduct a random survey of passengers flown to see what kind of briefing they received. You may be surprised at what they tell you. Aircraft crewmembers know what to do when they get into their aircraft -- where to step and not step, what to touch and not touch, when and how to buckle and unbuckle their restraint system, the location of fire extinguishers and survival kits and how to use them. However, it's just as critical that passengers, whether they are civilian or military, also know these things.
Remember, passengers aren't as familiar with the routine or emergency procedures that are second nature to aircrews. Don't ever assume they know about your aircraft simply because they are wearing a uniform and maybe even aviator wings. Your passengers don't know what they don't know. This could lead to serious accidents and injury.
Every pilot in command, as well as each crewmember, is required to ensure all passengers, military and civilian alike, are briefed on emergency actions prior to flight in accordance with their aircraft operator's manual. Here are some general suggestions that can apply to just about any aircraft passenger briefing.
• Flight data. Brief passengers on the intended route, altitude, time en route and weather.
• Approaching and departing the aircraft. Explain the proper direction to approach and depart the aircraft to avoid rotor blades, propellers and exhaust heat. Also, go over proper entry and exit procedures.
• Seating. When passengers occupy seats in the area of aircraft controls, caution them against unintentional or inadvertent interference with the controls, both during flight and when entering or leaving the aircraft.
• Smoking. Remind passengers that smoking is prohibited on board or within 50 feet of any aircraft.
• Emergency entrances, exits and equipment. Identify their location and demonstrate operation of jettisonable doors and windows, escape hatches, cabin doors, cargo ramps, cutout/kickout panels, first aid kits, troop alarms, jump lights and emergency escape equipment (axes, etc.).
• Safety belts and shoulder harnesses. Make sure passengers are familiar with the use and operation of this equipment and the requirement to use it.
• Helmets. If passengers are provided helmets, remind them to keep the chinstrap secured and the nape strap tight.
• Overwater flight. If the flight will be conducted over water, familiarize passengers with flotation equipment, the location and general use of all life-support equipment and methods of emergency egress in water.
• Survival equipment. Point out its location and explain general use of survival equipment such as flares, rafts, radios, etc.
• Fire extinguishers. Point out their location and explain how to use fire extinguishers, with special emphasis on occupant safety (people first, equipment last).
• Clothing. Brief passengers to roll down shirtsleeves during the entire flight. Be sure that all passengers without helmets wear earplugs or other hearing protection.
• Protective masks. If carrying toxic chemicals onto the aircraft, make sure all passengers have protective masks readily available.
• Refueling. Ensure passengers offload and remain at least 50 feet from the aircraft during refueling.
• Equipment security. Caution passengers not to throw anything from the aircraft at any time, in flight or on the ground. In addition, remind them to secure all equipment inside the aircraft to prevent it from becoming a missile in the cabin during a crash, and outside the aircraft to prevent it from being sucked into rotor systems, engine intakes or blown into people or equipment.
• Emergency landing position. Explain and demonstrate proper body position: Bend forward at the waist with feet planted firmly on the floor. Rest chest on knees and hold the position by enfolding and locking arms around and behind thighs.
• Off-loading. Instruct passengers that under normal conditions they should wait until they receive a word or signal from a crewmember. In an emergency, they should offload and move away from the aircraft to a pre-briefed position. (During a fire, egress should be immediate; no fire, wait until the blades stop turning.)
There is no excuse for cutting short, amending or omitting the passenger brief; your operator's manual requires it. After an accident, it would be tragic to have someone be unable to free themselves from your aircraft because you didn't brief them on how to use the emergency exits. What if they didn't know how to get you out, use the fire extinguisher to fight a fire or use your survival radio to get help? Conduct proper passenger briefs each and every time! Just do it!