Buttonville Flying Club

COPA Flight 44

Passenger etiquette

contributed by Michael Martin

As a member of the Buttonville Flying Club (BFC) you are likely aware that many members gather on Saturday, Sunday, and holiday mornings in the main terminal building in front of Druxy’s Deli at CYKZ.  We meet for coffee and conversation, typically about all things related to aviation.  Sometimes we discuss other topics, so it is a lively, informed gathering, and a lot of fun.  On days when the weather is not cooperating, the number of BFC members can be plentiful.  However, on days when the weather is fine, many members fly out to other local airports for breakfast.  It is always preferred to fly whenever possible.

Some new members and those who do not own their own airplanes can be left behind and miss out on the remote destination fun.  However, it is common for these non-owner members to hitch a ride with the members who do own airplanes.

It is important to appreciate that there are a few points of protocol that should be respected if you get a ride.  These include:

  • The passenger always pays for the pilot’s breakfast
  • The passenger should be prepared to pay for half the fuel costs, although some generous pilots decline to accept the money, it is important to help out and a “free” ride should never be “expected”
  • Passengers are expected to help push and manoeuvre the airplane, if required, especially if the owner needs to buy fuel at the other end.  Pushing an airplane needs to be done with care and coordination around other airplanes and at refuelling stations
  • Passengers should help out by fetching the wheel chocks at both ends

By flying as a passenger, you become a welcomed, engaged, and active club member.  You get to know your fellow pilots and enjoy the fun and camaraderie of being a member of the BFC.  As you meet the other members, your chances of being invited along increase.  Flying is very much as social event and it is always better to share it with likeminded friends.

The BFC engages every year in various flying events for COPA, EAA, Girls Take Flight, and other aviation activities, so volunteering for these events helps to build your recognition as a contributing BFC member.  Every year, members of the club fly out to major events in Canada and the USA.  These might include airshows such as Sun n Fun in Lakeland, Florida and AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as well as shows and events in Ottawa, London, and Peterborough.

As a new pilot, these “fly for breakfast” flights are a powerful opportunity to learn, observe, and ask questions.  They are a chance to fly in more sophisticated airplanes and to discover the advanced differences in avionics and airplane systems.  Most notably, many BFC members have vast flying experience, so it is an opportunity to learn from the best and observe firsthand safe aviation.

It is important to balance your enthusiasm for these events, by being helpful, but not being a distraction.  There are times to talk and times to refrain from distracting the pilots, especially during take-off and landing, or when they are talking to ATC.  So, follow the lead of the pilot-in-command (PIC) and pay attention to their workload, which is even more important in IFR conditions.  As you get more experience, and trust builds, the PIC may share some of the flying duties with you.  Sometimes, the guest pilot operates the radios in coordination with the PIC who flies the airplane.  Once they are comfortable with you, they may even allow you to fly the airplane too.

If you have a headset, you may wish to bring it along, however many airplanes have built-in headsets, so you may not need it.  It is smart to ask the PIC upfront.  Do not bring too much stuff as weight and balance, as well as available space, are always limiting factors in every aircraft.  Cameras are always welcome, but ask first before taking too many photos or distracting the pilot.  If you are snapping joint selfies, be sure to ask if it is okay to post those photos on social media as not every one engages in social media in the same way.

It is important to realize that these flights are a gift to you, and you need to respect that you are being given a very special opportunity.  Even if you pay for some of the costs, the pilot / owner is paying a great deal more, so be aware that flying is an expensive hobby to enjoy.  And, there are inherent risks in aviation so you need to be aware and informed of these risks. 

Always say, thank you.  Rides should never be expected.  Most of all, just have fun.  After all, this is a hobby and a passion for all pilots.  You are joining a club to experience and enjoy the thrill of powered flight.  It is a special opportunity in life, so relish it.

Buttonville Flying Club

Toronto-Buttonville Municipal Airport

2833 16th Avenue, Box 100

Markham, ON, L3R 0P8

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