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Training Tip: What passengers want

Are you a slipper or a crabber?

Photo by Mike Fizer.

When you have earned the privilege of carrying passengers, you might choose to modify some basic techniques to enhance passengers’ comfort and confidence in light-aircraft aviation with you at the controls.

Think of it as a glimpse into your future as a pilot. Early on I realized that not all passengers shared my personal preference for the crosswind landing method, a sideslipped final approach. The slipping sensation isn’t for everyone, so when flying with passengers aboard, I may hold off on the slip for a while, if conditions permit.

You may discover also that with some hypersensitive passengers, no good deed goes unpunished. After landing a single-engine Cessna as described above one gusty day, a sightseeing passenger expressed relief that we had not wound up in a building alongside the runway (that’s where the nose was pointing during the crabbed phase). Explaining the technique cleared up the misconception.

Turbulence is another consideration: Pilots who have flown VFR cross-countries in thermal-current-producing warm spring weather expect lumps and bumps—and because we understand the nature of turbulence, there’s no anxiety. A passenger, not being a connoisseur of convection, may be sitting there outwardly calm but silently suffering until, well, you know. When flying with passengers, instead of toughing out the turbulence as you might do solo, take any reasonable opportunity to find air that doesn’t make a fixed-pitch prop buzz like a table saw—and be proactive; don’t wait until the need is obvious.

Now for turns: Don’t let yours become turnoffs. Keep the bank angles shallow. Standard rate is a good baseline—and coordinate with rudder, please, to head off those queasy-making slipping sensations discussed above.

If you are not landing at a short airstrip that calls for aggressive flying—which should be covered in a preflight briefing, if appropriate—passengers savor a don’t-wake-the-baby touchdown. This is cheating, technically, but you can leave ’em smiling by adding the tiniest touch of throttle just before touchdown from a normal landing to cushion the contact; then idle the power and keep the yoke back, allowing the nosewheel to descend as airspeed decays. Don’t be surprised if passengers applaud like they sometimes do on the airlines.

One passenger you shouldn’t pamper is your first—the designated pilot examiner for your checkride. However, you will still earn applause if the DPE observes that your situational awareness includes sensing how your flying affects the other individual aboard.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Training and Safety

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