Passenger Comfort


By Richard Zephro


HAVE YOU EVER ridden in a car with a “jerky” and inconsiderate driver who pumps the accelerator on and off, changes lanes in a jerky fashion, slams on brakes and holds them down all the way to the complete stop so that you’re jerked forward and then back? Well I sure have and a lot more than once. How about the ham handed airline pilot who thinks he’s flying a fighter jet with more than noticeable pitch and roll changes, serpentining the final approach like a snake, jerking the power on and off enough so as to make one wonder if this pilot knows what he’s doing. No doubt we’ve all been there. Perhaps you’re one of those drivers and pilots. In either event, our responsibilities as Pilot in Command is to help insure that our passengers are comfortable and that they feel secure about our operation methods and procedures.

WE AS PILOTS can only do so much when the air is turbulent for example to help make our pax comfortable but we should know in advance of a given flight if the air will be rough or smooth. While we have had to deal with turbulence often, we need to remember that turbulence instills fear in many “unseasoned” small plane passengers, so what can we do to make them more comfortable and secure?


1. We can explain to them prior to flight that there may be some bumps on a particular day and that most bumps are caused by either heat thermals or wind. I liken flying to riding in a boat whereby sometimes the lake is calm and the ride is smooth, while other times it gets a bit rough when the water is not so calm. Like the boater when the lake gets rough, he slows the boat down for a better ride and we can do the same in rough air yet helping the passenger understand that airplanes are “Wind Machines” and were designed to ride in rough air with no more adverse affect to the airplane than that of a boat which is designed to withstand the forces of the rough water. Explain that it’s no big thing and normal even for airliners to have to negotiate rough air at times and when that occurs, the airliner slows down for a better ride. When rough air occurs, make light of it to your passengers by saying: “wow, I didn’t see that chuck hole, I’ll try to go around the next one. Let me know if you see a bump coming up”. :o) If you have a serious look on your face during rough air, that look could frighten the riders.

2. Be certain that they are snugly strapped in so that in case of moderate, their head won’t hit the ceiling.

3. Consider climbing above the turbulence when possible; in other words do what you can to help make the ride pleasant and of no concern by the rider for his or her safety.


1. In our element as pilots, we are used to three dimensional operation, but the passengers may not be.

2. On most aircraft such as the Mooney, the pitch will change as we add flaps so what can we do to keep pitch changes to a minimum? What I do with models that have electric trim, I will actuate the trim in the correct direction at the same time that flaps are being added. Doing so will all but eliminate those changes in pitch. For those without electric trim, I use some muscle to keep and hold the attitude until I can reach down with the same hand that flaps were actuated in order to remove the yoke pressure and to keep and hold the pitch attitude.

3. Avoid sudden nose down pitch when you begin your descent by doing your attitude change slowly and smoothly so that it is barely noticeable to the riders.

4. Avoid slamming the throttle on and off. Number one, it’s not good for your engine nor your constant speed propeller, and number two, it will avoid your passengers having to ask themselves what’s going on. Make your power changes smooth and subtle so that little attention is given by the passengers as to what’s happening.



1. Try to make all of your turns standard rate and avoid “military muscling” the plane in to a banking attitude. This is especially important in the traffic pattern because over banking the plane can not only be uncomfortable, but dangerous as well. If you’re using your auto pilot heading bug, be sure your auto pilot is not of the type that really cranks the bird over in to a bank. I’ve flown some that even startled me due to how quickly and sharply some turn.

2. When the workload allows, notify your pax of what you are about to do such as making a turn.

3. Allow the person in the right seat to bank the plane explaining how to do it and speak about how really stable and solid the aircraft really is.


1. Avoid them where possible.

2. If avoiding the crosswind landing is not possible, try to explain to them in advance that the airplane’s attitude will probably look and feel somewhat weird on approach in order to track directly to the runway and that the approach is “routine” during crosswind landings.

3. There are two ways to do the crosswind approach and landing. The “crab it in; kick it out at the last second”, or approach with your nose toward the runway and “bank approach” to touchdown. My personal preference in the later. I try and hold the same banked and ruddered approach all the way to the flair. Sudden “kick-outs” can frighten the passengers leading them momentarily to feel that the landing may not be successful.


1. Explain in advance of the flight to your passengers what you plan on doing during the flight and that they will be fine and in tact after the flight.

2. Explain to them about the engine and all of its backup features i.e. 2 spark plugs for every cylinder, 2 magneto’s (liken them to a car’s distributor), 2 fuel pumps, 2 fuel tanks, etc.

3. Explain why an airplane is not in danger of suddenly falling out of the sky and in rough air, the airplane is built to take way more than we can.

4. Explain how flying in an airplane is a 3 dimensional experience, but the ride will much much like in a car but with a much better view. ;o)


1. Personal flight is already a “Magical” thing, so we have no more to prove than to show exactly how much in control of the aircraft we are by making the ride uneventful and pleasant.

2. Steep turns should be avoided unless your pax wish to take pictures of their house or what ever, but always warn them in advance of an impending steep turn and be certain it is done with adequate altitude and speed. Tell them in advance that steep turns about a point are FUN!

3. Never buzz anything or anyone.


1. Be certain to maintain the attitude that there is no “Stupid Question” from the inexperienced riders.

2. Explain that there may be a few times when you are communicating on the radio that you will hold your hand up to show that you have something going but when and if you do that, you will get right back to their question.

3. Explain that in the traffic pattern, you need to keep talking to a minimum so that you can concentrate on the landing.

4. Show them around the plane prior to flight explaining how it all works and why.

5. Explain to them about the RunUp prior to flight and why that is done.

6. Assure each of them that this flight will be conducted in good weather and they can rest assured that they will have a good time and be perfectly safe during the process.

7. Explain how their headsets work and that they are voice activated and that if they cannot hear themselves speaking, neither can you, so help them set up the mic in the correct position to speak in to. Set squelch correctly.

8. Acknowledge that some pax will think to themselves if they will get airsick or not. Show them where the barf bags are, but also explain that no one you’ve ever flown has needed one being careful not to “plant” the airsick idea in their heads.


1. Why do these “little airplanes” crash so much? Answer: There are accidents in every mode of transportation and if they glorified car crashes as much as air crashes, you’d be just as concerned with driving or riding in a car. However the fact remains that there are air accidents with statistics improving with every year which is a very good thing, however about 80% or more of all accidents involve pilot error and really bad weather and some percentage of that number are pure stupidity and that you will try hard not to make such mistakes. If you thought YOU would be one of those statistics one day, you wouldn’t fly! Be sure to guide them to Mooneyland to help them with more thorough answers via these articles:

Once they see your familiarity with our safety articles such as those presented to you by Mooneyland, they will know that you are a “safety conscious” pilot.

2. When flying over the more smooth air and view of a lake for instance, I often get: “Can these planes land on water?” Answer: Sure!………..once!…………. :o)

3. With no street signs up there, will we get lost? Answer: Part of my pilot training is navigation and to be honest, I get lost in my car often where I rarely if ever do flying.

4. Well, it all sounds okay, but when you get in to an accident in a car, you’re already on the ground and can often walk away. Answer: When you get in to an air accident, it usually involves the “ground” as well, but seriously, the far majority of air accidents do not involve fatalities. You’re just used to hearing from the media on the more spectacular accidents. You would be shocked to know just how many business utilize general aviation and with accidents becoming less in number every year, they are making huge strides in that area.


1. To encourage and promote General Aviation. Remove as much of the attention to yourself as you can and explain that you are but a small part of General Aviation and why.

2. To be absolutely certain that you are not one of those pilots that scare the wits out of your passengers making them say “NEVER AGAIN!” This happens all too often.

3. Be sure you are experienced enough to have your passengers feel that their pilot is professional in all aspects of flight and anything that is complicated but made to look easy is a sign of a professional and that should be the goal.

4. Relax them with humor where appropriate and possible.

5. Cater to all of their needs including supplying a bottle of water on a warm day.

6. Offer everyone some chewing gum which can help ward off nausea as well as help them when descending to aid in ear popping pressure.

7. Don’t forget your rear seat passengers. Turn around to them on occasion to let them see your unconcerned face and ask them how they like it so far.


Do everything within your power to help insure a comfortable, successful, and passenger thoughtful operation of the aircraft.

Do everything within your power so that your passengers have a great and memorable time.

Do everything you can to properly promote General Aviation and explain to them why it is that you fly.

Do praise them for their courage they’ve undertaken for flying with you.

Don’t go out of your way to showoff or show your piloting skills.

Don’t do anything of a surprise in nature just to get a “rise” out of your passengers.

Don’t let any passenger think that his question is stupid in nature and encourage them to ask.

Polish your flying skills to the point that no one senses unnecessary movement of the attitude of the aircraft and prove to yourself that you deserve to fly passengers.

Clean and Polish your airplane to make it look its best.

Be a pro!

Have fun!

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