February 2002 Issue

Get Down Right Now

Emergency descent training hardly qualifies as routine. But everyone should try it at least once

[IMGCAP(1)] Aviation training is often bashed for having a tombstone mentality. We tend to ignore certain shortcomings until an accident or incident instills new religion. Emergency descent training is a prime example of this.

Throughout my private, commercial and ATP courses, I don’t remember getting instruction in emergency descents. Yet after the ValuJet, Swiss Air and FedEx accidents—each of which involved fire in flight—every checkride I’ve had has included an emergency descent.

What’s the big deal with emergency descents? And is this skill worth your attention? Take one look at the burned wreckage of the FedEx DC-10 at Newburgh, New York in 1996 for your answer. That crew had...

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