How much briefing do you think we could do in an aeroplane on a given flight?
A quick run through a flight reveals many opportunities for a briefing: the pre-flight, departure, pre-take off, emergency, passenger, descent, approach and finally de-brief – I’m sure many of you could think of more. But what are we briefing and why? Are there any guidelines we could apply in order to make our brief’s realistic, relevant and not something that turns into a rote learned, regurgitated waste of time?
To begin with, a brief should be simply that – brief. A student pilot will invariably talk too much when beginning his or her flying training, and teaching how to brief becomes an exercise in getting the individual to really think about what they are trying to convey to either themselves or others in the crew. A brief should have a structure that gives the briefer the minimum that should be discussed. For example a departure brief in the company I fly with requires as a minimum we brief chart, terrain, weather, operational factors plus other relevant considerations. Here we see the structure taking shape to ensure the minimum of operational and safety considerations are discussed (and hopefully as they have been discussed then they must have been thought about) but allowance is there to brief any other relevant issues – such as threats on the particular given departure.
Further, the briefing structure attempts to minimise mindless repetition of standard procedures. Why brief something which is in normal procedures on every departure and which every member of the crew already know about? It simply adds to the length of the brief. Additionally other crew members will not only turn off and start thinking of something else whilst you are regurgitating the NP’s, but may also be looking at you wondering if you have really thought about the departure you are doing on that day and the particular threats that may be encountered. So, be brief. Make what you are saying relevant to what you are about to do.
So we want to be brief. Obviously there is a minimum amount that should be discussed. Simply stating, “OK, taking off and going North” whilst brief and to the point is probably pushing the brevity too far. Come up with your minimum structure and stick with it on each instance that you brief. On the other hand, briefing everything that could possibly happen, including emergencies and the associated actions is a swing too far in the opposite direction. Whilst as an instructor it is nice to know that the student knows verbatim the immediate actions for engine failure after takeoff, I do not want this told to me on every departure down to the finest detail. I’d like to know your gates or points, at which you are going to abort, land ahead or carry out a forced landing onto the runway as these may change depending upon the runway, conditions, terrain and weather. But please don’t tell me for the hundredth time that you are going to adopt the glide, select idle, trim and then do your radio call. That is normal procedures for an engine failure – I expect that will be done regardless of any brief. Also, I don’t need to know your actions in the event we enter IMC on the departure if it is a CAVOK day with not a cloud in the sky. Is it relevant to your departure you are about to do? If not – don’t mention it.
Remember that the tone of the flight is set on first contact with the other members of the crew. If the first brief of the day, be it a pre-flight brief by the instructor or student, the fuel decision brief or any other brief, is given in an unorganised, haphazard or unprofessional manner then the rest of the flight will likely follow suit. A professional well thought-out brief given in a confident manner goes a long way. Not only does it give others receiving the brief confidence in the briefer’s abilities, but it also allows the briefer to develop a confident and assured operational style.
Watch and listen to your instructor give his or her briefs. Learn from them. Ask to give the brief yourself when your instructor thinks you have progressed enough. But overall, think of how you structure and what you say in your briefs. Next month I’ll have a look at the pre and post flight briefs in a little more detail. Until then, enjoy your flying!