Any air traveler is familiar with the flight attendant’s safety briefing before every flight. Most of us read through it because we’ve heard it so many times before, and you are probably aware that the briefing is an FAA requirement. But did you know that as PIC, you are required to give a safety briefing before every flight as well?
Of course, the safety briefing that we give is a lot less involved than the airlines, since we don’t have to worry about evacuation slides and drop-down oxygen masks (also known as the “rubber jungle”) but it’s still required before every takeoff, regardless of how many times our passengers have flown with us. When I was working on my ratings beyond the commercial license, the Examiner was known to say,”I know what your briefing will be, I’ve heard it before, so we can skip it for this flight.” He didn’t want to sit in a hot plane, and neither will your regular passengers, but just be advised- it is required by regulation.
There are two items that are specified by 91.107:
1. The pilot in command is responsible for ensuring that each person on the aircraft is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten the seat belts and shoulder harnesses;
2. The PIC must ensure that each person on board the aircraft has been notified to fasten his or her safety belt and shoulder harness prior to taxiing, prior to takeoff, and prior to landing.
Notice that the PIC responsibility is to notify the passengers- there is no requirement to ensure that it’s been done, just that they have been notified about what the requirements are. AOPA’s John Yodice has a great article about this here, and it’s worth reading.
Remember that over the years, technology has progressed well beyond what was available when the FAA certified our airplanes. There was a time when all seatbelts fastened pretty much the same way, but that’s no longer true. When we brief our passengers about the seatbelts, we are actually taking them about 50 years or so back in time.
Of course, you are entitled to add items as you see fit, and how to open the door is certainly a great idea- the latches in our airplane may be a completely different animal from what our passengers are accustomed to. Comfort items like heat and ventilation, as well as the location of sick bags and fire extinguishers, can be of great benefit.
Some pilots explain their sterile cockpit policy, and maybe ask for help to look for traffic. I’ve heard some pretty involved briefings and while there’s no such thing as too much safety knowledge, there may be a limit to how much information a new passenger can comprehend in one sitting, but that’s the call of the PIC. There’s a great article by Susan Parsons here about more inclusive passenger briefings, but don’t forget that besides nice-to-know and need-to-know, there’s required-by-the-FAA-to-know.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve talked to some flight attendants over the years and the consensus is, they would appreciate some eye contact during that briefing. It has to be difficult to do that over and over several times every day- they are just as bored with it as we are, but they don’t have a choice, so even if my mind is elsewhere, I try to at least pretend I’m paying attention. That’s my motto- Act Sincere!