My first passenger flight experience

4 min read

Cessna 172After you earn your license, there’s a feeling of freedom. You’re officially allowed to soar the skies without the permission of your CFI.  With great power, comes great responsibility – so they say; and they’re right. So what happens after the point when you earn your pilot license?

Aside from the obvious, more training.  There’s a nagging issue at hand and by nagging, I mean friends and family. I’m sure all student pilots can relate to friends and family constantly seeking updates on your progress and asking “When can you take me flying?” After you have your license, even the “friends” you haven’t heard from in years come out of the woodwork. I’m sure you’ve already identified that first passenger.  It’s memorable so make sure you bring someone special.  From the perspective of a recently licensed pilot, here’s my advice on what to anticipate.


Plan the flight with the passenger in mind. Consider the places and landmarks that your passenger is going to recognize from the air.  The obvious first choice is his home and local city.  Some interesting options that you’ll want to consider are any nearby theme parks, recreational areas, and favorite shopping centers.  Know your intended route before you go and plan for the appropriate altitudes and airspace requirements.  The duration of the flight is up to you.  I flew for about an hour and that seemed like the right amount of time for the passenger.

Preflight and pictures

When you’re preflighting the airplane, it’s fun and interesting to describe the process.  It also helps keep you focused on the task.  Most of the basics we learned the first week of training are fascinating to your passenger.  This is also an opportunity to instill confidence with your sharp aeronautical knowledge. For example, explain the way air flows over the wing and how that creates lift courtesy of Bernoulli’s Principle.  Demonstrate how the yoke controls the ailerons and describe the purpose.  My favorite demonstration on the ground was taxiing. When you’re taxiing the airplane, start with your hand on the yoke and focus your passenger’s attention.  Casually mention that you’re actually steering with your feet and let go of the yoke. Expect some funny reactions.  Some levity may be beneficial this phase of the journey.

Take advantage of the great photo opportunities during preflight. Don’t forget the before and after shot. Selfies are highly recommended.  In today’s world, you probably won’t have to remind your passenger to take photos, but be sure to get some for yourself too.

Checklist for your first flight – Don’t forget the essentials!

  • Video Camera- record as much of the experience as you can.  I used the 360fly 4K camera for our flight.  I really like the ability to swipe to change vantage points and look outside and inside the airplane.  The 360fly app makes editing simple and you can even save still images from the video.
  • Extra Sunglasses- just in case they forget.  Not only does that give your passenger the cool look of an aviator, but also allows the eyes to relax and will make the experience more enjoyable.
  • Spare Headset- May seem like a no-brainer but most of us only carry one headset, so make plans to borrow from a fellow pilot.
  • Air sickness bags- Hopefully you won’t need them but if you do, you’ll be glad you stuck one in your flight bag. So will the sick passenger.
  • Chewing Gum- Chewing gum can help alleviate those inner-ear pressure issues. Bonus- you’ll both have minty fresh breath for the close quarters of the flight deck.


Before the flight, admittedly I was anxious to fly my first passenger.  After all, a perfect flight can be spoiled with a not so perfect landing in the eyes of a passenger.  Afterwards, I believe I enjoyed the experience as much or more as my passenger.  I’ll admit, I was nervous for how the flight would go and for the comfort of my passenger, but once you sit in that seat the “pilot brain” takes over. Follow your checklists, make sure to maintain your instrument scan and look for traffic.

Don’t delay that first passenger flying experience.  It could be your best flight and best memory yet.