Emergency Procedures


  • PIC is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of that aircraft
  • In an emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot-in-command may deviate from FAR 91 Subpart A, General, and Subpart B, Flight Rules, to the extend required to meet the emergency
    • If the PIC choses to deviate from the provisions of an ATC clearance, the PIC must notify ATC as soon as possible and obtain an amended clearance
    • Unless deviation is necessary under the emergency authority of 91.3, pilots of IFR flights experiencing two-way radio communication failure are expected to adhere to the procedures prescribed under "IFR operations, two-way radio communications failure"
  • Troubleshooting is important but don't fix an airplane airborne when you can safely land first
  • Be directive, if you want something, tell them, don't let ATC drive you
  • Declare emergencies with general terms, use "electrical" or "engine" for example
  • The PIC may deviate from any part 91 rules
  • The PIC must notify ATC as soon as possible and obtain an amended clearance
  • Discrete emergency frequencies may be assigned by ATC
    • By default use CTAF or guard (121.5/243.0)
    • You must hear different radio communications
  • 2 things will kill you immediately: hitting the ground or another airplane
    • Think first before you act
  • Emergency hand signals are listed in 6-5-3
  • First 3 seconds, ask yourself, where am I? What do I have? Is the light valid?
  • Every emergency is a different type
    • Aircraft control - MAINTAIN
    • Precise nature of problem - DETERMINE
    • Applicable emergency procedures - EXECUTE
    • Appropriate landing criteria - DETERMINE AND EXECUTE


  • Request block altitudes and orbit on the approach end, offset to the runway of intended landing if possible
  • Climb above the weather of possible
  • When contacting base start with what you have, what you've done and what page you're now on
  • Consider fuel remaining for the urgency to get the aircraft on deck
  • Receiving vectors it is a good idea to constantly repeat headings and altitudes are you are busy and it is easy to forget

2 Types of Emergencies:

  • Immediate Action: do has quick as possible consistent with flying
  • Non-Immediate Action: Get to them when you get to them

What to do?

  • Breathe
  • Point to field/Immediate Action
  • Climb if possible to improve communication and radar coverage
    • Note that you cannot climb unauthorized in IFR
  • Continue squawking the same code under radar coverage, if unable to contact ATC, squawk 7700 and this can keep you free from violations, though an explanation may be requested later
  • Orbit near field in VMC

Master Caution light:

  • You should always want to reset that thing in accordance with flying the airplane (except bingo) so you have a warning of any follow on cautions
  • It may be your only cue when looking outside (form)

Distress Procedures:

  • Do not hesitate to declare an emergency if in distress
  • An aircraft in an urgency condition needs to recognize when a situation becomes that of distress
  • Safety is not a luxury! Take action
  • Distress frequencies, procedures, signals, and call signs may vary among theaters of operations and are contained in various directives, such as Joint Publication 3-50, DoD FLIPS, and ICAO publications
  • A copy of the applicable procedures and signals shall be carried in the cockpit of all naval aircraft and may be used in time of peace regardless of the degree of radio silence that may be imposed during tactical exercises
  • They will be used in time of war when prescribed by the officer in tactical command and may be amplified as necessary to cover local conditions or specific military operations

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Communications (ARFF):

  • Discrete Emergency Frequency:

    • Direct contact between an emergency aircraft flight crew, Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Incident Commander (ARFF IC), and the Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT), is possible on an aeronautical radio frequency (Discrete Emergency Frequency [DEF]), designated by Air Traffic Control (ATC) from the operational frequencies assigned to that facility
    • Emergency aircraft at airports without an ATCT, (or when the ATCT is closed), may contact the ARFF IC (if ARFF service is provided), on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) published for the airport or the civil emergency frequency 121.5 MHz
  • Radio Call Signs:

    • Preferred radio call sign for the ARFF IC is "(location/facility) Command" when communicating with the flight crew and the FAA ATCT
      • Example: LAX Command
      • Example: Washington Command
  • ARFF Emergency Hand Signals:

    • In the event that electronic communications cannot be maintained between the ARFF IC and the flight crew, standard emergency hand signals as depicted below should be used
    • These hand signals should be known and understood by all cockpit and cabin aircrew, and all ARFF firefighters
Recommend Evacuation
Figure 9: Recommend Evacuation
Recommend Stop
Figure 10: Recommend Stop
Emergency Contained
Figure 11: Emergency Contained
    • An operating procedure, practice, or condition, etc., that may result in injury or death if not carefully observed or followed
    • An operating procedure, practice, or condition, etc., that may result in damage to equipment if not carefully observed or followed
  • NOTE:
    • An operating procedure, practice, or condition, etc., that is essential to emphasize
  • Shall:
    • Mandatory
  • Should:
    • Recommended
  • May:
    • Optional
  • Will
    • Indicates futurity, never indicates any degree of requirement for application of a procedure


  • The emergency aircraft has the lead unless they don't want it, "bleeder is the leader"
  • The most damaged aircraft should land last, especially for single runway operations, with the exception of land as soon as possibles
  • In NORDO situations, any HEFOE from the emergency aircraft means lead brings you back for a HALF flap, straight-in approach
  • Be ready with the book to assist a wingman