For many first-time passengers, flying in a small airplane is both thrilling and terrifying. It’s your job as pilot in command to make them feel at ease. For that reason alone you should spend time doing a passenger briefing that even a jaded flight attendant would love. Most of the basic briefing items might be related to safety, but it’s the extra touches that will transform your image from daredevil to doting captain.
Operation of seat belts is the only FAA-required briefing item. Airplane seat belts can be complicated, even for other pilots. Make sure everyone knows how to fasten and unfasten, and when the lap and shoulder portions should be worn.
Car makers have generally figured out how to standardize door handles. Not so with airplanes. Demonstrate how to open and close the door, the location of all the exits, and how to kick out the windows if the doors won’t open after an accident. Also, be sure to mention if one of your doors has a habit of opening in flight.
Point out the fire extinguisher and explain how to use it. Your rental airplane doesn’t have one? Buy one and keep it in your flight bag.
Airplanes are a foreign environment. Give guidance on how to dress, both for the flight itself and in the event of an off-airport landing (boots, coats, hats, gloves, sunscreen, et cetera).
A tutorial on how to tune and transmit on 121.5 MHz is helpful, as is a discussion of how to use a personal locator beacon, the emergency locator transmitter, and any survival devices.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday one of your passengers will get sick. Carry bags and point out where they are and how to use them. Also explain the location of the vents, heat, and sunshades.
A strict sterile cockpit may not be necessary at all times below 5,000 feet, but mentioning when it’s OK to talk and when it’s not is a good practice. So is pointing out what a passenger can touch and what he or she absolutely should not (we’re looking at you, ejection handle).