Stay Calm

Stay Calm

  • April
  • 19
  • 2022
  • Advanced Aircrew Academy

On April 1, 2022, it certainly was no joke when pilots on a flight from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. diverted the flight to Denver after the cockpit windshield shattered above 30,000 feet. Passengers recount the crew explaining the rare occurrence and the need to divert to Denver for an early landing, and as you might suspect, telling them all to STAY CALM. In this case, certainly the phrase comes to mind that "never in the history of calming down has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down."

While we can say with certainty that this particular emergency is not a common occurrence, aviation is still riddled with various emergencies from time to time that will require an immediate landing. This can be quite concerting to not only the crew, but the passengers as well, who find themselves relying completely upon the quick reaction and skill of their pilots and crewmembers. It doesn't help that nearly 20% of the population lists flying as one of their biggest fears, and when emergencies occur, we can only reassure nervous passengers by remaining calm ourselves and focusing on the task at hand.

During emergencies, we agree that the number one priority is a safe landing, but how do we handle the anxiety of passengers, which may contribute to the stress level of the cabin and adversely affect our ability to respond? Telling them to calm down may do little to reduce their anxiety, but there are definite measures you can take before the flight to reassure anxious passengers and instill confidence in your ability to bring them home safely.

  1. Be personable and honest. Let passengers know that you are skilled, experienced, and perhaps how many flight hours you have accomplished without incident. Many times the fear of flying comes from a lack of control, so demonstrating your concern for the individual and providing confidence in your abilities is one step closer to appeasing a nervous passenger.
  2. Discuss safety procedures and precautions in depth. Let passengers know the safety process and how the aircraft undergoes checks all the way from the manufacturer to the crewmembers present for the upcoming flight. Before a flight, feel free to show them your own personal preflight routine, checklists, or inspections to ensure the aircraft is ready for flight.
  3. Provide distraction. We encourage crews to maintain central focus on flight activities when in the air, but when possible, feel free to engage your passengers in conversation, provide magazines or other media, or perhaps give them particular check points for which to watch, which may keep their minds busy on anything other than a fear of the worst possible scenario. Your demeanor can often set the tone, so be mindful of your own attitude and appearance during flight.

Aviation is a convenient, fun, and effective mode of transportation that, as with any other activity, is never without risk. While some may never fully overcome their fear or nervousness in the air, our job as pilots and crewmembers is always to be the best possible ambassadors we can be for our profession. Being mindful of your passengers, thorough in your preflight activities, and clear and open with communication are the best tools you can have during those moments when you will need them most.