The Pilot's Lounge: Emergency/What-If Scenarios

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It is valuable to think through all the possible emergencies in an airplane and then plan your response to them, all while sitting safely on the ground. An experienced surgery instructor -- and new pilot -- did just that, and provided his list for AVweb readers.

The Pilot's Lounge

AVweb's Rick Durden recently corresponded with a surgery instructor who described one of the methods he used to teach new surgeons: He had them write down everything that could go wrong during an upcoming operation and then set out what should be done to deal with each anomaly. When he became a pilot, Dr. Aimette performed the same process for aviation. See how your list compares to his, and then work through what you would do in each circumstance. By thinking about each issue on the ground, you increase your chances of surviving when (not if) they happen in the air.

You can also read what Rick has to say about emergency training in this related column.



1. Engine failure

A. On takeoff roll
B. After takeoff
Low (< 500')
Med (1000')
High (>2000')
C. In cruise
D. On approach

2. Cockpit fire/smoke

A. Electrical
B. Petroleum
C. Engine
D. Tire

3. Runway obstacle

A. On final
B. On takeoff

4. Vacuum pump failure

5. Alternator/battery failure

6. Starter solenoid lockup

7. Prop vibration

8. Bird strike

A. On airframe
B. Wings
C. Prop
D. Windscreen

9. Loss of radio receiver or transmitter

10. Asymmetric flap extension

11. Loss of elevator(s): Asymmetric; Symmetric

12. Loss of ailerons: Symmetric, Asymmetric

13. High-velocity crosswinds on runway

14. Sudden incursion into clouds (VFR pilot)

15. Loss of ground visibility

16. Loss of throttle control

A. Normal power
B. Cruise power
C. Low power

17. Loss of known position

18. Engulfed by thunderstorm cells

19. Loss of radio #1 or radio #2

20. Loss of triwheel steering

21. Fuel cap leakage

22. Gasoline odor in cockpit

23. CO in cockpit -- signs and symptoms of CO

24. Sudden loss of oil pressure indication

25. High oil pressure, normal oil temp

26. Sudden increase in amperage discharge meter

27. Sudden smell -- electrical/electronic component burning

28. High number of aircraft in traffic pattern

29. Getting cut out in the traffic pattern

30. Loss of ground brakes

A. One side
B. Both brakes
C. On landing roll

31. Engine sudden roughness

A. On ground
B. In the air
C. At altitude

32. Very high alternator amp output

33. Circuit breaker pops out in flight

34. Take off without setting altimeter

35. Thunderstorm cells seen ahead

36. ATC talks too fast to understand

37. Chest pain during flight

38. Sudden ice on windshield

39. Loss of tricycle wheel in power line wire strike -- land?

40. Bird strike windshield -- always wear glasses

41. Stall entry and recovery

42. Spiral entry and recovery

43. Make list of in-flight engine failure hints

44. Closing down of visibility in flight by encroaching clouds

45. Opposite door in cockpit open

46. Storage compartment door open

47. Sudden onset of icing

48. Sudden onset of freezing rain

49. Sudden appearance of oil on windshield

50. Seatbelt on co-pilot side locked outside and flapping

51. Glasses, maps, etc., fall out of reach in flight

52. You are offered old aircraft to rent at FBO

53. Take off from an inner-city airport with limited emergency landing sites

54. Magneto failure in flight

54. Sudden onset of airsickness in pilot or passenger

55. Severe rollover from wake turbulence at altitude

56. Heavy jet seen near flight path -- wake turbulence