There are few things as rewarding for new pilots as flying with their first passenger. I know that was true for me. Part of my whole motivation for completing my ticket was to share the excitement of flight that I’d discovered during my lessons and prelicense flight experiences. And once I passed my checkride, I wasted no time in filling whatever rental I was flying with as many friends as I could. There are a few things I remember rather clearly from those early days of my flying career: first solo, first solo cross-country (from Caldwell, N.J., to New Haven, Conn.), finding the Sparta VOR right off the nose (where I told the examiner it would be) during my checkride and then flying my first aerobatic contest a week after getting my ticket, in the Basic category (now called Primary).
If you’ve been reading this space over the last year or so, you might remember some stories about flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with various friends, worth recounting for their varying degrees of zaniness and/or a good lesson learned. In the years since those first flights with friends, the novelty of taking passengers aloft has largely worn off, yet the fun is still there. Indeed, it’s still beyond me why anyone would want to fly a single-seat aircraft unless he or she is flying for some special purpose, like spraying crops or competing in aerobatics on a high level. Other than that, come on, flying is meant to be shared. And it’s during that sharing that I now find myself reflecting on a few favorite flights.
I love the questions I get when I pile whoever I’m flying with into the Cirrus SR22 I usually fly. After walking them around the plane, pointing out what’s going on in modern private aircraft design these days, I load ’em up and get the whiz-bang screens going. Those screens always elicit comments, and I usually hear, “Well, this is nothing like I expected. I expected a rickety thing with little round dials.” And there’s a lot that people new to small airplanes don’t expect.
My friend Mike Radomsky, a Cirrus pilot based in Las Vegas, has created a terrific little checklist he hands to passengers as they settle into his plane. Mike polished the content and design of the thoughtful and professional-looking card and organized it into sections that are pretty self-explanatory:
• Normal things that may surprise you
• Sound system
I like that first section quite a bit. For those of us motoring about in technically advanced aircraft replete with, literally, all the bells and whistles, those beeps and blips and burps are par for the course, but they might be a bit off-putting to the unitiated. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a what-was-that look from a passenger when Bitchin’ Betty (or perhaps, Bobby, it’s a male voice) calls, “Traffic, traffic…” Well, with the Radco Radomsky Passenger Checklist (I sound like an infomercial, don’t I?), those looks of unease, like the ones we get when the autopilot clicking off chirps like a smoke alarm, are allayed proactively instead of after the fact. The checklist also addresses other neophyte passenger concerns, such as turbulence, maneuvering and engine sounds, or lack thereof.
Pretty much anything a passenger might want to know that fits within those headings is addressed on the checklist, but don’t call Sporty’s, it’s probably the one thing they don’t stock. On page 54, Marc C. Lee puts his spin, so to speak, on carrying passengers aloft for the first time, or for the hundredth time. And if you want to fly a whole bunch of passengers, take a gander at “Pilot Careers 2008” on page 46. While I doubt any airline utilizes the Radomsky checklist, at least you’ll be able to thank your passengers for flying the friendly skies.