"How can I keep passenger distractions to a minimum during flight?" - Dan D.
“A Sterile Cockpit is the concept that only communications and activities essential to safe aircraft operation are permitted during critical phases of flight. The actual regulations (FAR 121.542 and FAR 135.100) only apply to commercial operations but it is a concept that can and should be applied to all aircraft operations. The regulations state that No flight crew member may perform any duties during a critical phase of flight not required for the safe operation of the aircraft.
Critical phases of flight are defined as all ground operations involving taxi, takeoff and landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet MSL, except during cruise flight.
Since most of our operations are single-pilot and conducted entirely below 10,000 feet, we need to brief our passengers on when we can engage in conversation and when we can’t. Passengers and even worse, other pilots, despite all good intentions, can be significant distractions. In our enthusiasm to fly and share the experience with others, we have a tendency to let discipline slip.
As GA pilots, we have many roles; not only flying the aircraft but acting as flight attendants, tour guides and experts on all things aviation. This naturally invites conversation Can you see your house over there? or What is that other plane doing?
FAR 91 requires a passenger briefing that includes seat belt and exit procedures, this is a good time to also explain the ground rules for talking during busy times. And if all else fails, you may be able to isolate yourself using the intercom panel.”