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Declaring an emergency

Pilots are somtimes reluctant to declare an emergency while flying because:

  • I'm afraid of what the FAA may do.

    Votes: 13 16.0%
  • I can handle most situations.

    Votes: 1 1.2%
  • The problem isn't that critical.

    Votes: 5 6.2%
  • I have no problem declaring an emergency.

    Votes: 62 76.5%

  • Total voters
    81
  • Poll closed .

Dustoff11

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I am preparing a paper and would like to get pilot's response to this question.

Are you reluctant to declare an emegency when something happens while you are flying? If you are, is it because you are concerned about what the FAA will do?

Is it because "I can handle it!" sometimes pilots don't want to declare an emergency and I am trying to gather some info. I have been guilty in the past of not calling an emergency an emergency, but I want some other pilot's opinions.

Safe skies!
 

bobbysamd

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Declaring emergencies

Try searching for a similar thread from last week for a nice discussion of the topic.

My .02 opinion would be that a lot depends on the situation. Let's say I'm flying a twin and must shut down an engine. The airplane is maintaining altitude and I'm reasonably near an airport. Chances are I'll call Tower, explain my situation and ask for priority in landing. I haven't flown in more than eight years and these things are easy for me to say when I'm just sitting in front of my computer and typing. I might see it differently if I'm flying the airplane.

On the other hand, consider this situation. Civilian IFR training makes a big deal out of flying partial panel. At a minimum you practice partial panel with failed vacuum instruments, i.e. failed AI and HI. We drill students to death on timed turns, compass turns, and turn coordinator calibration. I loved to create "failures" of all kinds of instruments for my students. I made them practice PP holding. But, to me, the bottom line would be this. No matter how proficient I may be on partial panel, if I'm in real IMC, per the FARs I'll report to ATC failure of my vacuum instruments, declare an emergency and request priority handling. As far as I am concerned, AI/HI failure in a light airplane consitutes an emergency.
 

tarp

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My Ops Specs says:

1. When to declare an emergency:

a.) Single Engine
b.) Loss of Hydraulics (where "brace" command is appropriate)
c.) Unsafe Gear Indications
d.) Critical Fuel Status
e.) Smoke or Fire onboard
f.) Emergency descent required
g.) Medical Emergency (for crew or passenger)

2. When not to declare an emergency:

(includes abnormal operations for which performance data exists and safety margins are certain)

a.) No or partial flap landings
b.) Loss of Anti-skid
c.) Oil pressure less than 20 PSI without accompanying warnings
d.) Loss of N1 signal.

I think in line flying (ie 121/135), our procedures are pretty well defined and we do not have all the disgression that people think we have.

In GA flying, I only had the opportunity twice. I considered an engine failure at 6,000 agl within 2 miles of a 9,000ft runway in a SE airplane to be a no-brainer. The tower cleared me to land and asked if I would politely keep the plane rolling off the high-speed to keep the runway open. Never saw a fire truck or even an airport car. I should have declared but ego was saying if I couldn't dead stick this landing, I should hand my Commercial Certificate in. However, a gear unsafe on a Seneca made me VERY nervous. I high tailed for a towered field with crash equipment, declared, landed without incident and waved to the three fire trucks as they dashed pass me. On my taxi to the FBO, ground asked me my point of origin and my intended destination for their paperwork - that was it!

My view of this question is tainted by 18 years of experience and many, many FAA Safety Seminars. Declaring an emergency is a free ticket. As long as you're not calling "wolf" and declaring an emergency just so you can beat the 3 o'clock shuttle, go ahead and do it. The local FSDO said that if you declare and the result is a safe landing somewhere, you stand about a 90% chance of not even talking to anyone about it - never mind paperwork.

If you get to see a 121 or 135 Ops Spec / FOM / Procedures Manual or whatever the airline calls them, one look at the Emergency Section and you will know exactly what your role is.
 

bigsky

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Yes in my opinion " it doesnt matter if you feel comfortable about handling the situation-- declaring an emmergency is a C.Y.A. maneuver.
 

Acestick

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Re: Declaring

Surprisingly enough, a lot of pilots won't declare an emergency when they should...The reason why is usually somewhere between them thinking there is nothing they can't handle and them choosing to go down in flames rather than deal with the possibility of the FAA taking their ticket.


Kind of a twisted view of things, but that's the attitude that a lot of pilots have...
 

Speedtree

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Ditto to the C.Y.A. I would rather declare an emergency in case I need it and do some explaining to somebody than not declare it and explain why I didn't when something gets worse. Think worst case scenario. All things being equal you should be following the FARs so a little scrutiny shouldn't be an issue. (and I know there are FAA horror stories out there but I try not to worry about them) look at the odds of screwing up a current potentially bad situation (emergency) vs having everything turn out o.k. and the FAA getting Nazi on you.
 

Cornelius

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Speedtree made a very good point.
 

knelson

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Just a couple of quick thoughts on this. Declaring an emergency, as previously stated, is a CYA maneuver. They are very easy to use and very easy to take care of. And also already mentioned, you should not use the magic E word to cry wolf.

I have only had to declare an emergency twice so far (hope that's all for a career, but unfortunatly the opportunity will probably present itself again within the next 30-40 years). The first time, I should have broadcast the emergency declaration a bit sooner. I was instructing in a Piper Apache and began to get some smoke in the cockpit. I began to asses the problem and figure out an option and then took the plane to the closest field. All the approach controller got on the tapes before the avionics wiring had burned up was "Apache XXX declari. . . squeltch". We got on the ground, evacuated the airplane, airport car picked us up, short phone call to the tower and that was it.

The second was on a 135 flight in a c-421. Had a load of PAX and on climb-out noticed the oil pressure dropping. A quick glance at the left engine revealed an incredible amount of smoke pouring out of the nacelle. I shut it down, secured the engine, declared the emergency and took a vector to an airport not too far away. It took one call to dispatch and they sorted everything out for me.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a guy flying a King Air into Dalhart, Texas call FTW center and say he needed a lower altitude to "sort some things out." A few minutes later he told the controller he was getting some smoke in the cockpit. When the controller asked if he was declaring an emergency, he said "not yet" I'm going to try and isolate the problem here and figure some things out."
The entire time I was holding myself back from jumping on the mike and giving this guy (probably with much more experience than myself) a lecture, but since he had all those things to figure out, but I just let it be. Emergency declarations are a very useful tool and should be used properly. More importantly, if you have an emergengy, LET SOMEONE KNOW!!!

so much for a couple of quick thoughts.

knelson
 

bobbysamd

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The "Wolf" Factor

I agree with the others. Perhaps people hesitate to declare an emergency because in their minds they're thinking, and the FAA might also think later, they're crying "wolf."

Once again, it all depends. "Knelson's" example of the Kingair not declaring when he had smoke in the cockpit is an example of when TO declare. That, in my .02 opinion, is a no-brainer. Once again, it's easy to judge when one is just reading a story and not under the pressure of flying the airplane.
 

ksu_aviator

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Along the same lines of this survey...A 441 with a Dr and his wife on board went down yesterday here in Kansas. I don't know all the details, but I can say there was very likely severe icing. The Dr did request a landing at an airport other than his destination, but they never got to it. I'm betting the guy got loaded with ice and never declared an emergency, just asked for radar vectors. I heard no mention of an emergency being declared. Maybe if he had he would be sitting in BFE Kansas drinking cofee right now.
 

AWACoff

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My reason for not declaring an emergency at my current job is because I don't want the feds poking around. Jumper aircraft are fairly sketchy to begin with at the mom and pop dropzones. Unless I am leaving the aircraft (ie smoke, fire, etc.), it just isn't worth risking my certificate and career. There is nothing that ATC can do to help that the people on the ground can't do (where I fly).
 

OtterFO

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Wildcat man, Here's your 441

ACFT ADVISED OF LOSS OF AUTOPILOT IN IMC AND THE PILOT REQUESTED NO-GYRO VECTORS TO VMC, THE ACFT THEN DESCENDED RAPIDLY UNTIL RADAR/RADIO COMMUNICATIONS WERE LOST, THE ACFT CRASHED AND WAS DESTROYED, THE 2 POB SUFFERED FATAL INJURIES, OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES ARE UNKNOWN, ARKANSAS CITY, KS.

WEATHER: KWLD 1954Z AUTO 00000KT 4SM FZRA BR BKN010 OVC013 M01/M02 A3001

This is off the FAA website. As you can see, the weather was lousy in SC KS, but this guy confessed his problems and requested help. Also the FZRA indicates a temp inversion so it is likely the air was warmer where he was when the he lost his gyros and autopilot. Although I'm a long way from my NC OK roots I remember the inversions this time of year in Northern OK/ Southern KS can be spectacular. 20 degrees warmer just 3000' AGL.

On a side note, today on the North Slope, I landed at a village and the temp was -42C, when I broke 1000' MSL on the way back to Barrow, it was -16C
 

Birddog

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Declaring Emergencies

I only declared once, when I lost an engine in a twin. I was reasonably certain that I would land safely, however, if something else went wrong, I wanted someone ready to pull me from the flaming wreckage.
In all seriousness though, if you think you need to declare an emergency, you probably do. What constitutes an emergency for one person (or crew) may not be one for another, depending on equipment, training, experience, and conditions. Its all part of exercising good judgement. It is not just a good CYA maneuver, it also mobilizes things like crash-fire-rescue (if the airport is so equiped) and in some cases, SAR. Good luck and fly safe.
 
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