As a kid, I traveled extensively by air (thanks to my mother who’s a former airline employee) and consider myself to be a lucky ‘airline brat’ compared to other kids back in the day who had the privilege of visiting the cockpit! That being said, I literally grew up observing procedures in the cockpit and that’s one reason why briefings have always intrigued me!
Google will tell you that a “Briefing” is the action of informing or instructing someone! Likewise in Aviation, briefings form an integral part of operational procedures, performed during all phases of flight – be it on the ground or up in the air. This not only ensures that all crew members are on the “same plane” (literally and even otherwise) but also enhances crucial parameters like safety, situational awareness and crew resource management. So, when I started flight school, I devised a briefing format for myself akin to airline procedures! This was not only very effective but also impressed fellow pilots, instructors and examiners alike!
For instance; my pre-departure briefing on a hot day (32o C) from runway 25L at Long Beach (LGB) in a Cessna C172S would typically be;
Normal Take-off, Flaps 0, VR 60 KIAS, VY 74 KIAS and cruise climb 85 KIAS.
Any abnormality or engine trouble before VR, we abort take-off.
Any emergency after VR with runway remaining, we land straight ahead.
In the event of an engine failure during climb out below 1000 feet AGL, secure the airplane and ditch in the Los Angeles river. For engine failure above 1000’ AGL, trim for VG 68 KIAS (best glide speed), follow checklist procedure, declare an emergency and secure the airplane to land back at LGB or any airport in the vicinity (TOA, FUL or CPM as the case maybe) or at the most suitable area available! For an electrical failure – follow checklist procedures. ANY QUESTIONS? For a communication failure, the briefing is based on whether it’s an IFR or VFR flight. Even in ‘single pilot’ airplanes when I have a fellow pilot sitting next to me, I prefer to entrust certain responsibilities like, “My airplane, your radios. Together we will work as a crew!”
Plenty of resources are available off the web and over the years, excerpts from training and operating manuals have been reproduced in the form of blogs or videos by industry amateurs and experts, alike. However, most flyers in General Aviation tend to disregard the importance of briefings! Truth be told, it doesn’t matter whether you fly a Cessna C172 as a hobby flyer or a wide-body jet as an airline captain, briefings are just as important! For a student pilot or private pilot, training towards their commercial pilot license and a subsequent career in the airline industry, it not only inculcates discipline but also consolidates the foundation to follow procedures and execute tasks in the cockpit during various phases of flight.