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7 Tips For A Perfect Departure Briefing

This story was made in partnership with AOPA Finance. Financing an aircraft? Talk to AOPA Finance today.

You've started up your plane, taxied out, and completed your runup. But there is one thing standing between you and your wheels leaving the ground: a solid departure briefing.

1) Standardize it.

Develop a formula for success and change the information for each new airfield you visit. By adhering to your standard pre-departure briefing you limit the possibility that you might skip something.

You might also consider separating your briefing into smaller normal and emergency categories. Keep it efficient, effective, and relevant.


2) Brief even when you're flying by yourself.

Sure, you've heard your amazing departure briefing a hundred times, but why not one more time? By going through your briefing alone, you make sure you don't overlook any procedures.

Studies show that phrases said out loud are more likely to be remembered, especially in a high-stress situation like an engine failure on departure. Think of it as the same reason you say your checklist items out loud when you are alone.


3) New airport, new brief.

Consider repeating your departure briefing before you start additional legs of your flight, especially if there are new obstacles or notable features to be aware of.

Every airport is different, and your future self might thank you for taking an additional 2 minutes to think through what will really happen in an emergency.

Nicolas Shelton

4) Get yourself moving.

As you run through your emergency items, trace your hands over the actions you would take.

This builds muscle memory, decreasing the time it takes you to react in a real emergency.


5) Make sure everyone is ready.

Before you start rattling off your takeoff plan, make sure everyone with you is ready to hear it.

Before you start, ask your passengers or other pilots to: "Let me know when you're ready for the departure briefing."


6) Things to include in your briefing.

Every pilot, plane, and company will have required items to discuss before departing, but here's a good list to start with:

Normal Brief

  • Identify the Pilot in Command (PIC)
  • The takeoff runway, its' length, and reported winds
  • Type of takeoff, and runway length required
  • Abort point
  • Rotate and climb speeds
  • Pattern altitude

Emergency Brief

  • Engine failure or fire on the runway
  • Engine failure or fire in the climb
  • Engine failure or fire at or above pattern altitude
  • Who will fly in an emergency?
Nicolas Shelton

7) Any Questions?

Once you're finished with your briefing ask if anyone has questions. It's the last opportunity for your passengers to ask questions before you lift off the ground.


What else do you add to your departure briefing? Tells us in the comments.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a flight instructor from Southern California. He is currently studying aviation at Purdue University. He's worked on projects surrounding aviation safety and marketing. You can reach him at

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