Emergency Procedures and Loss of Communications


Understand lost communication and emergency procedures.


This is the required reading for this lesson. Numbers in [brackets] indicate the starting and ending page in the referenced reading material. Read all the pages and sections referenced.


The notes below highlight the important parts in the referenced material. Reading the notes without having read the actual referenced material is generally not sufficient to pass the written exam!

PHAK - Chapter 14

  • Lost Communication Procedure
    • Troubleshoot: Ensure your radio panel is configured properly
    • Frequency: Ensure you are tuned to the correct frequency.
    • Connections: Ensure there are no loose wires and everything is fully plugged in.
  • Squawk 7600
  • If landing at a controlled airport:
    • Determine the direction of traffic
    • Watch for light signals from the tower
  • It may be better to deviate to an uncontrolled airport with less traffic:
    • Keep scanning for traffic!

AFH - Chapter 17

  • Types of emergency landings:
    • Forced - Such as that following an engine failure
    • Precautionary - When further flight is possible, but inadvisable, such as deteriorating weather, being lost, or fuel shortage
    • Ditching - Landing on water
  • Precautionary landings are a very important tool for pilots since they allow an emergency landing to be executed with power and under control. Too many situations turn into forced landings because the pilot did not use a precautionary landing.
  • Psychological Hazards
    • Accept the emergency situation. Do not become paralyzed. Act now!
    • Do not try to "save" the plane. Planes are replaceable; your life is not. Sacrifice the airplane and you can survive.
    • Do not let fear get the better of you. Fear is natural, but avoid panic. Keep your composure and follow the procedures.
  • Emergency situations:
    • Engine Failure After Takeoff (Single-Engine)
      • Land straight ahead, unless you have sufficient altitude to turn around.
    • Emergency Descents: Often used for uncontrollable fire or loss of pressurization.
      • Bank 30-45* to maintain positive load factors. Spiral.
      • Power idle, maximum drag.
      • Do not exceed maximum airframe/gear/flap speed.
    • Flight Control Malfunction/Failure
      • No flap landing.
      • Asymmetric flap. Indicated by a pronounced roll when flaps are lowered.
      • Loss of elevator control. It is possible to maintain pitch control with the trim wheel and power.
      • Landing gear malfunction.
    • Systems Malfunction
    • Abnormal Engine Instrument Indication
    • Door Opening In-Flight
      • Concentrate on flying the airplane. Noisy, but rarely affects aircraft control.
    • Inadvertent VFR Flight into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions)
      • Recognize seriousness of situation
      • Maintain control of airplane. Small control inputs, shallow turns, and shallow climbs/descents.
      • Use the autopilot and obtain assistance from ATC in order to exit IMC conditions.

Sim Pilot Notes

These notes highlight the differences between simulator and real-world flying. These differences are most often due to simulator limitations or specific VATSIM rules.

  • Loss of Communications on VATSIM: Although total loss of communications on VATSIM is rare thanks to the available fallback of using text, if the radios lose power the pilot client will no longer be able to transmit on frequency.
    • When in uncontrolled airspace make sure to keep a lookout for other traffic - either visually or using existing tools such as VatSpy - and proceed without radios (NORDO). Squawk 7600 when able.
    • If you already are in the traffic pattern at a controlled airport, land as soon as possible. In the real world, tower would use light signals to indicate if you can land or not. On VATSIM a good alternative would be to send a private message to the controller (using the .chat command in your pilot client), inform him of your situation and get a landing clearance that way.
    • If you are inside controlled airspace but not yet in the pattern, exit the controlled airspace and land at an uncontrolled airport unless it is not feasible to do so due to time constraints, weather or the lack of suitable airports in the vicinity.
  • Declaring Emergencies on VATSIM: Pilots are allowed to simulate most emergencies on the network in controlled airspace with ATC on-line The pilot must discontinue the emergency or disconnect from the network when requested by ATC. Pilots are not allowed to simulate hijackings (and squawking 7500 will result in automatic disconnection from the network).
  • Checkride Emergencies: You will be required to know the following emergency procedures. (The examiner may ask for the reference material if he is not familiar with the aircraft).
    • Engine Fire on the Ground. Most engine fires occur due to improper starting techniques often caused by lack of or non-adherence to a check-list. Incorrect starting procedures for the time of year can also lead to engine fires. The procedures for dealing with an engine fire on the ground are usually well detailed in the appropriate POH and must be committed to memory. Know the recommended starting procedures, the manufacturer's recommended drill for starting problems, and the steps to follow in case of an engine fire.
    • Engine Failure during Takeoff. If an engine failure occurs during the takeoff run, the safest course of action is to apply full brakes and attempt to stop on the runway. If this is not feasible because you already are airborne, the safest course of action is to land straight ahead! Do not attempt to return to the airport unless you are already at a safe altitude (500 feet AGL or more).
    • Emergency Landing without Engine Power. For the purpose of this rating, you are not required to demonstrate the skills executing a forced landing - either in the pattern or during a cross-country flight. However you should be able to identify a suitable landing site and describe the process to the examiner. The GLOWS mnemonic can be used:
      • G - Gliding distance: The aircraft can safely glide to it at best-glide speed. The gliding distance for a C172 is generally halfway down the wing strut.
        • If your aiming spot is moving up the windscreen, you will be short and not make the spot.
        • If your aiming spot is moving down the windscreen, you will overshoot the spot.
        • If your aiming spot remains in fixed position on the windscreen, you will make the spot.
      • L - Length: The length of the area is sufficient to land.
      • O - Obstacles: The area is free of obstacles such as fences, trees or telephone poles.
      • W - Wind: The direction of landing is into the wind.
      • S - Surface: The surface of the intended landing area is flat and sufficiently hard. Cultivated fields for example are good, provided you remember to land parallel to the furrows!
    • Engine Fire in Flight. Most Aircraft Flight Manuals include procedures to follow in the event of a fire in flight. Very specific procedures for engine, cabin, and wing fires are sometimes outlined separately. These should be committed to memory and reviewed periodically. In rare instances fires occur that cannot be extinguished; this requires an immediate landing.

Tomas Hansson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Chief Flight Instructor, VATSTAR
DISCLAIMER: all information contained herein is for flight simulation purposes only.
March 2021

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