Rick Durden’s very nice 2008 essay (“Declaring The Emergency,” published in our January 2009 issue and available on our web site) encourages pilots not to be shy about declaring an emergency. Very recently, a pilot in my area was flying his piston twin at 12,000 msl in IMC, under IFR, on a Saturday, when the manifold pressure in the turbocharged right engine went to ambient.
He feathered the prop, and realized that the field at which he normally has the aircraft serviced was in easy reach. He declared an emergency and diverted to that field. Two of his mechanics were flying IMC/IFR in the area, heard the transmissions, recognized his number and voice, and diverted to the same field.
The incident pilot landed safely; the mechanics put the sick twin in the hospital, and everybody went home unharmed. (The turbocharger came apart.)
The FAA is investigating; basically a full ramp check, a year’s copy of all pilot and aircraft logs, and more than a dozen pages of forms to fill out. (“We’re only doing our job….”)
This is a reason why pilots are reluctant to declare an emergency. News of this sort of vengeance spreads fast. Pilots forget just what ATC does, forget what resources are mobilized, forget what the official definition of “emergency” is.
(I have been asked more than once whether I want to declare. I have not so far wanted to, because my own definitions of an emergency is “something dangerous that I quite possibly may not be able to manage.” All my in-flight crises have so far been quite manageable: moderate unforecast icing; alternator loss in IMC; mag failure in IMC. But my personal definition also includes the expectation of “investigation” afterward.)
Thanks for listening. The mag, by the way, continues to be excellent.
Daniel L. Johnson – Via email
Thanks for the comments. The one time I declared an emergency, and the one time it was declared for me—both of which were thanks to a sick engine followed by a no-incident landing—involved no paperwork. I even went out of my way to speak with tower personnel once to ensure they didn’t need anything from me. In both cases, ATC was happy I was on the ground, and safe and sound.
That said, FAA field personnel have long been known to apply their surveillance and enforcement powers unevenly. There have been various “reforms” over the years, but the problems persist, often exacerbated by personal conflicts.
I fly a Cessna 425, have been a subscriber of Aviation Safety for years and have always found your articles enlightening and useful. When you or other publications publish civil aviation accident statistics organized by the FARs under which they operate—Part 121, Part 135 and Part 91, general aviation accidents stand out for obvious reasons. However, we pilots would get a better picture of actual statistics if the number of airplanes flying, or specially hours flown in each segment, would be included. Number of accidents does not say much if we don’t relate them to hours flown.
Thanks and congrats for a great publication in support to safer flying,
Jose Iturbide – Via email
You’re right, of course. The chart you’re referencing appeared in our February issue accompanied by the explanation that these were “top-line” numbers and that statistical summaries would be presented in subsequent issues.
As always, I get a lot out of reading Jeb Burnside’s articles. In “Top IFR Mistakes” (April 2022), the only mistake I found was the spelling of “compleat.” Afterwards, I realized this spelling dates back to the 1700s. I’m sure Jeb inadvertently copied it out of an old issue of the AIM where it described shooting an oxcart approach into County York in the fog on the old Post Road.
Misspelling aside, you’re producing one of the most valuable aviation publications available. Keep up the great work.
David Fisichella – Via email
Thanks! We were paying homage to Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (1653). Today, that spelling is a sign that nothing is missing from the topic. It was used in the subhed, “The Compleat IFR Pilot?”