Why briefings are important

Many private pilots use checklists to be ‘on the safe side’. Beside of that there is also other tools in order to increase safety in flying. Why briefings are important and how you could benefit will be covered here.

Why briefings are important

The origin of briefings

Originally briefings are part of the multi crew cooperation concept in commercial aviation. Briefings ensure that all crew members operating the aircraft and being responsible for the safe conduct of a flight are aware of the most important parameters. This accounts for flight crews and cabin crews.

Pilot – pilot briefing

Pilots brief the other one(s) on the flight deck to ensure all have the same perception of reality. Staying within the same loop is very important, especially during handling of emergencies. But also for standard procedures, briefings are very useful tools. Some standard briefings are:

  • departure briefing
  • take-off briefing
  • emergencies briefing before take-off
  • approach briefing (incl. go-around)
  • holding briefing
  • landing briefing
  • etc.

The exact information included varies from operation to operation but definitely includes the most important parameters like speeds, altitudes, directions, fixes (fixed points stated on a chart), specialities.

Pilot – cabin briefing

Especially in commercial airline operations, briefing the cabin crew as well is very important. During emergencies the cabin crew has to be briefed accordingly in order to prepare the cabin for the emergency. A well-known example is the so called NITS-briefing:

  • N: nature of the emergency (e.g. engine failure, cabin pressure loss,…)
  • I: further intentions (e.g. emergency landing, diverting,…)
  • T: time to event (e.g. 5 mins to ditching,…)
  • S: specialities (e.g. evacuation after landing,…)

Sometimes there is a second S included (for Signals). Anyway, it provides the most important information to the other crew member(s).

Briefing for single pilot operations

No mather if you’re flying commercially or just for fun, you can benefit from above mentioned concepts.

Briefing yourself will remind you on all important aspects. In flight, depending on your experience and the current situation, there may not be enough time to actively think about what else could be important.

“Briefing items should be memory items!”

Example:

Departure briefing for private pilots

  • departure runway 36R
  • left turn after passing safe altitude (e.g. 500′ AGL) and runway threshold
  • follow traffic pattern at altitude 1900′
  • thereafter climb max. 2500′ until passing reporting point ABK

All important information regarding the departure is mentioned / remembered and also more accessible to your brain. When adding the take-off briefing (including aircraft specific speeds etc.) and emergencies briefing (what if…) to the departure briefing, then you have a clear mental picture what will be going on the next couple of minutes.

Then you are mentally ‘infront of the aircraft’. Your flying will be safer and maybe also more relaxed – you know what you’re going to do, the information is fresh and clear. Your decision making skills will be better because you’ve free capacities gained.

Brief your guests

As there is no cabin crew taking care of the guests on a private single-pilot operated plane (usually), this task should be transfered to the pilot in command.

Although you take care of them (if their seat belts are secure, etc.) it would also be great for them to know the emergency exit(s) – usually through the windows, and what to do in specific events. This might be frightening for some passengers, but submitting this important information in a slightly funny way will increase overall safety.

Briefing for student – flight instructor operations

As there are situations where two pilots (during a checkride) or one pilot and one student (during initial training) operate one aircraft, it makes sense to implement clear briefings. Please also refer to this post here.

Conclusion

Briefings are a very useful tool to stay with the loop – either it is just you or the other pilot / crew member you are flying with. Briefings enhance the overall safety.

Guests / Passengers should be briefed in order to provide neccessary information and prevent unforeseable reactions up to a certain amount.

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