Lost Aircraft Procedures


  • Lost aircraft procedures can be simplified down to five simple steps called "The 5 C's"


  • If able, you want to minimize your travel so you can orient to the location without anything changing and not get any further off track


  • Admit that you are lost and need some form of assistance
  • Write down the time you determine you are lost
  • Avoid stressing out and convincing yourself you are lost when maybe you are not


  • "Climb to cope"
  • Ceiling and visibility permitting climb to improve radio reception (comm and NAVAID) and forward visibility
  • Be sure not to fly around aimlessly, circle if required during a climb


  • Operate the aircraft (when straight and level) at maximum endurance power setting
  • When oriented, fly max range
  • Check your fuel state and determine how much time you have


  • Request assistance on the area working frequency
  • Try to communicate using all available channels and NAVAIDs
  • If unable try calling an approach control frequency with a PAN report and request vectors
  • If unable to receive any reply, switch to guard and deliver a PAN report
  • If required set transponder 7700

  • If ATC responds then comply with instructions

  • UHF: "PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, [Callsign], [Situation], [Position], [Intention] PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN"


  • If you are attempting landing at a strange field, circle it at a safe altitude and locate all obstacles and hazards
  • Determine wind direction and duty runway and get a rough estimate of runway length and width
  • Try to contact the tower on guard prior to landing
  • Use best estimation of pattern altitude

  • Never fly above overcast layers
  • If stuck above a cloud layer, bailout is an option

C-172 Procedure:

  1. Maintain positive aircraft control at all times
  2. Remain calm
  3. Conserve fuel by leaning the engine for a best economy operation and reduce power as much as practical
  4. Maintain situational awareness, using a sectional chart and NAVAIDs as follows:
    • Sectional:
      • Reset the heading indicator (HI)
      • Turn the sectional chart to match your heading
      • Watch for prominent landmarks
      • Match the landmarks to the sectional chart
    • NAVAIDs:
      • Reset the heading indicator
      • Tune and identify an available VOR and/or NDB station
      • Locate the aircraft position using radials / bearings
      • Plot a course to proceed direct to the destination or to intercept the planned course as appropriate
      • Use the GPS:
        • Use NRST to locate the nearest airport or VOR, or
        • Use the moving map
    • Obtain assistance from ATC or FSS
    • If unable to establish contact with anyone, squawk 7700 and transmit "in the blind" on 121.50 MHz to obtain assistance
    • Carefully monitor the amount of fuel and make a precautionary landing, preferably at an airport, before exhausting the fuel supply

Common Errors:

  • Not conserving fuel
  • Unaware of fuel
  • Improper calculations
  • Not turning toward an airport