Why are pilots so hesitant to declare an emergency?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by kicktireslightfires, Jul 26, 2021.

  1. tspear

    tspear En-Route

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    Incorrect. ATC may not be able to help while the plane is airborne, but they can help get resources to you once you land faster if they know. Further they can clear traffic and radio frequency, so you have less to worry about.

    Tim

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  2. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    The P/CG defines emergency as distress or urgency. It also defines distress and urgency.

    https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/media/pcg_4-03-14.pdf

    In short, every mayday is by definition an emergency but not every emergency requires a mayday call.
     
  3. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Getting resources on the ground doesn’t necessarily require an emergency declaration. And in most of the places I’ve been when I had the opportunity to declare, they wouldn’t know who to call and/or it’s more efficient to deal with those calls locally.

    Further, clearing traffic and radio frequency would constitute “making things better”, so we agree on that.
     
  4. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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  5. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    If I'm in a situation where I don't have time to think about whether to declare, that would be reason enough to declare in itself, for me. (Of course, I understand that there are always individual preferences involved.)

    In another post, someone mentioned not wanting to answer questions. A pilot can just say "standby" in response, or even no response at all if even that is too much under the circumstances.
     
  6. Matthew Rogers

    Matthew Rogers Cleared for Takeoff

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    Mayday/Emergency gets everyone out of breaking rules that they are "not allowed to do". If you declared emergency, you could change altitude without asking or telling ATC, if it was necessary. Or you could just tell them what you are doing and they will accommodate by moving everyone else out of the way.
     
  7. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    "Uh, hello tower, I wish to declare an urgency."

    Somehow I think there are some semantics that are missing. I've heard a few declarations over the radio, and none have been ambiguous as to the priority of the emergency, e.g. tower asks pilot if he wishes to declare, pilot says yes, tower then asks souls on board, fuel remaining, next of kin, insurance limits, blood type, SAT score, Briggs-Meyers personality characterization, outstanding warrants, etc...
     
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  8. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Pattern Altitude

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    After declaring an emergency, if ATC request information such as fuel or people onboard, just simply tell them to standby and you will get back to them.

    Nothing compels the PIC to immediately answer them.
     
  9. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I don't think it's about hiding. It's about one's actions as a great pilot being challenged. A bit of macho.

    But on avoiding an investigation, my favorite emergency story is the pilot who did not declare and faced an FAA investigation because of it. Had a flame out in a jet while IFR in IMC single pilot. Resulted in a loss of separation, which was reported. He can probably be excused from not declaring considering how busy he was handling the emergency. But I am completely convinced if he had declared, the investigation would not have gone the direction it did. Probably no more than a brief report - more of an inquiry by his employer than the FAA! Instead we had a young career pilot going through several months of uncertainty about his professional future as he followed the enforcement process from "Letter of Investigation" through a "Notice of Proposed Certificate Action" offering to suspend his ticket for a few months. He ended up hiring a lawyer to represent him and it fortunately ended in his favor at the "plea bargain" stage.

    And, to answer someone else's question, yes, I've declared emergencies three times. Biggest one, and the only one with any follow-up, was loss of power in the clouds. Follow-up was (1) ATC reaching me on the ground to confirm we were OK and (2) A very friendly conversation with an ASI a few days later who was obviously checking some boxes.
     
  10. midwestpa24

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    I run one of those airports, and I can tell you that's not true. It may have some kernel of truth for in-town emergency departments, but on-airport emergency departments exist because the FAA requires it. Our presence is required whether we run one call per year or 100 per week. That being said, we are more than happy to standby. We may even staff up the trucks just based on what we are hearing over the radio, even if neither ATC nor the pilot make "The Call".

    In an airplane incident, seconds can count. On average, the aluminum skin of an aircraft will fail in 90 seconds of direct flame impingement. The FAA regulations require us to be able to first be on scene discharging agent within 3 minutes from time of alarm. If we suit up and staff the trucks, we can shave a minute off of that. If we stage near the runway we can shave maybe another minute, depending on location and size of the airfield. We'd rather be ready and waiting and have a chance to help you, than be too late.
     
  11. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    ATC never asked me any of that in the emergencies that I have declared.
     
  12. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    I have been asked if I wanted to declare an emergency. I was flying under a CMF call sign and told approach I needed to land about 60-70 nm short of the destination for the passenger. They asked, and I said something along the lines that got the point across he just needed the toilet without saying "nope, my pax needs to tinkle"
     
  13. Daleandee

    Daleandee Pattern Altitude

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    The number of souls & fuel on board question is so they know how big a fire they'll have to put out and the number of carcasses they should find. That'll make the rescue workers job a bit easier.

    Flight following using ADSB could be useful here also as they would know where to look for smoke.

    If you don't want to verbally declare an emergency just squawk 7700 & manually turn on the ELT ...
     
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  14. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The bare minimum. Other information that ATC requests is “as necessary.”

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  15. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    I take it that the emoji means you're just trying to provoke people for the fun of it.

    But seriously, I'm pretty sure ATC declared an emergency for me after I lost comms in IMC, and the only "paperwork" was fully optional, a friendly exchange with Nav Canada on Twitter the next day where I thanked them for their help, and they replied that since I followed lost-comms procedures correctly, they didn't have to reroute any airline traffic heading to the big airport nearby. Win-win.
     
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  16. midwestpa24

    midwestpa24 En-Route

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    This! I know it may seem hokey, but there is a big difference between an airplane with a single pilot onboard, to even a Cherokee 6 with 6 SOB. 6 potential victims turns into a mass casualty event. It may take time to even get 6 ambulances to show up.

    One of our last big emergencies, was originally paged to us as "Aircraft inbound with smoke in cockpit, 5 min out, no further information." We roll the airport truck and start calling our usually first mutual aid, thinking a more typical GA airplane. A minute later the next update from dispatch was "45 SOB". :eek: Um, just how big of a plane are we talking here? We may need a little more help with this one.
     
  17. Arm3

    Arm3 Pre-Flight

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    I’ve declared an emergency probably around a dozen times and agree with this approach. Some of the situations were clear cut, something is on fire, type emergency and those are easy to call. The ones that make me ask should I declare or not I’ve always declared it. I’d rather have the priority handling and the fire trucks in position when I didn’t need it, than need it and not have them there. These have all been on the military side and I’ve never been second guessed.

    I’ve also told ATC to stand by when they’ve had questions that were getting in the way of aviating.

    The most important thing to remember if you’re going to declare an emergency/pan pan/mayday is to compose yourself before pressing the PTT so you sound good on the radio. Bonus points if you end the flight with clean seat cushion. ;)
     
  18. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Hopefully it's not carcasses.
     
  19. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yeah it was a joke. Working approach I declared for an Aztec who lost an engine enroute. Just bought the plane. On the ATC side it’s nothing more than indicating on the strip an emergency (red E). Supervisor writes it up in the sups log. Now a days it gets sent to the domestic events network (DEN) so the powers that be can investigate if necessary. So yeah, on the ATC side there’s really no paperwork involved…which is how they like it.
     
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  20. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I think there's some new thing where the Controllers gotta ask why if you change your destination. Make sure the bad guy's aren't hijacking you or sumpin. Don't know if they gotta use the E word or not though.
     
  21. Daleandee

    Daleandee Pattern Altitude

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    Perhaps I should have worded that differently. Yes, we do seriously pray that no carcasses are found!
     
  22. midwestpa24

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    I think that started around 9/11, or maybe even earlier. "Physiological needs" is one I've heard used before. One I used once, "Heard the FBO had free ice cream."
     
  23. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Hopefully someone doesn't misinterpret psychological for physiological. That could stir up a hornets nest
     
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  24. EdFred

    EdFred Taxi to Parking

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    In my request to divert I said it was for passenger needs or something. They took that to mean worst case scenario asked if I needed to declare and if they should call and ambulance. I laughed when I called back, and said whatever it was I said to let them know what it was really for.
     
  25. midwestpa24

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    We've been on the other side of that one too. We were dispatched for an inbound airplane with a passenger medical. It was actually a patient transport that diverted here due to a thunderstorm at their destination. There was a little bit of confusion as they asked the responding ambulance to take the patient the 80 miles to the intended facility instead of the local ER.
     
  26. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Used to be a DEN requirement that was born out of 9/11 but it was cancelled in 2011. I’ve talked with friends though that said their facility only does it for IFR air carrier ops now.


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  27. Zeldman

    Zeldman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ok, thanks for that info. I was just going off of what I have been told by airport fire crews. And that was limited to a couple airports in Texas and around a dozen or so here in the southwest. I do know that reservation airports a pilot is on their own if an emergency occurs. And believe me, I appreciate all the work fire and rescue guys do. Like I said, I always made the effort to meet and thank the guys and gals that roll out when I might have needed their services.
     
  28. TCABM

    TCABM Pattern Altitude

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    Just remembered about this time last year I had an event that definitely was an emergency but there was nobody to declare to and to get in a position to do so would have made the problem worse, not better.
     
  29. Arm3

    Arm3 Pre-Flight

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  30. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I've also been taught that it's not necessary to reply immediately to ATC when I'm on the runway if it might distract me from more important matters (such as keeping the aircraft under control). I delayed replying during the landing rollout of my last tailwheel flight a couple of weeks ago for that reason, and that wasn't even an emergency.
     
  31. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Yes. Why create an emergency.
     
  32. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    Why are pilots so hesitant to declare an emergency?

    1. Some pilots subscribe to the "What would Jesus Do" mantra ...
    2. Next level up is "What would Chuck Yeager Do" ...
    3. Highest level is "What would Chuck Norris Do" ...

    Or in short, most pilots think they're tougher than Chuck Norris ...:confused::eek:;)
     
  33. 3393RP

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    According to a French pilot I know, in Europe, "Mayday, mayday, mayday" is used for emergency declaration. Use of the word "emergency" is very uncommon.
     
  34. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I only said "mayday mayday mayday" on one of my declared emergencies. The situation was that my sole engine had lost power while climbing out of right downwind at a towered airport. It was the perfect setup for a safe forced landing in an urban area, so I didn't want to take ANY chance that something might happen to screw that up, and I figured that the mayday call would do the best job of immediately conveying the seriousness of the situation.
     
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  35. malichite

    malichite Pre-Flight

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    I've had smoke in the cockpit, a frozen elevator, zero oil pressure, parts fall off an airplane, miss rigged airplane. Not once have I got a call from the FAA, had to fill out excessive paperwork or anything. ATC is there to help, and have always been amazingly helpful...except for when I filled the cockpit with smoke going into Jeanu and their first response was "Are your intentions to land?" No firetrucks when I landed. The one time I wish there were. Moral of the story, dont be afraid. If you think it's an emergency, declare it and straighten it up on the ground.
     
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  36. tawood

    tawood En-Route

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    It went like this:
    Tower, "Do you want to declare an emergency?"
    Me, "No"
    Tower, "We're going to roll fire trucks, just in case."
    Me, "ok".
    That was it. I was on final. Not much more time.
     
  37. Lindberg

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    This thread is a long study on macho attitudes and pilots' reluctance to declare, but this post here gets closest to the important point. Declaring an emergency is a bit like telling someone you're pregnant. It's the situation, not the talking about it, that makes an emergency. Even if you wouldn't necessarily consider an inflight fire to be an emergency, if it makes you want to land on a runway other than the runway in use, then it's an emergency. And exercising the power of 91.3 doesn't require a "declaration," that's just how it's communicated.
     
  38. WDD

    WDD Pattern Altitude

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    Pilot - tower, I’m declaring a pregnancy

    Tower - come again?

    Pilot: Well, according to the POA…..
     
  39. luvflyin

    luvflyin Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Pilot blah blah
    tower blah blah
    pilot I think once was enough
     
  40. Hiflyr1

    Hiflyr1 Pre-Flight

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    PAN PAN PAN is not a emergency declaration, it is a declaration of urgency.
    MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY is the equivalent of a emergency declaration.