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Preparing Pilots for Airplane Emergencies

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Technological advancements have improved air travel dramatically. Although aircraft are safer than ever before, pilots must frequently train for emergencies and consistently monitor pre-flight and post-flight checklists. Malfunctions and poor weather conditions can test a pilot’s ability to maintain steady flight. Some problems that occur during flight can be corrected, but serious issues many necessitate an emergency landing. By remaining calm and reacting quickly, you can assess the situation and avoid a possible disaster. The following sections examine the ways that pilots can prepare for emergencies.

The Severity of the Problem
Air traffic controllers, pilots and engineers work tirelessly to keep air travel safe. Accidents and fatalities are far less common than they were in the last decade, but every pilot should prepare for the worst and realize that problems will occur at some point in their careers. Identifying the severity of a problem is the first step to formulating a solution. Some emergencies, like the loss of an engine, require immediate action to correct and often involve changing course to land safely, but pilots can fix or bypass minor issues during flight with help from ground control. Whether the problem is life-threatening or not, pilots must suppress anxiety and report any abnormal occurrence.

Backup Systems
Redundant systems are essential to air travel. If a malfunction occurs, a backup system can remedy the problem before an accident occurs. Many of the redundant safety features are part of a plane’s basic design. For instance, aircraft with multiple engines are engineered to function with the use of a single engine. If an engine fails in an airliner, the pilot can fly the plane and land safely with the remaining engine. Pilots have successfully landed with damaged engines, malfunctioning landing gears, ripped fuselages and reserve fuel. For all commercial and military aircraft, another important safety feature is the ram air turbine (RAT). The RAT is a wind turbine that generates power from the plane’s airstream during an emergency.

Constant Communication
In any emergency, pilots must immediately notify air traffic control (ATC). Emergency training drills prepare pilots for difficult situations, but ATC personnel are trained to assist with any problems. Before trying to remedy a small issue, a pilot can get expert guidance from the tower. If onboard communications are damaged, ATC can be contacted from a mobile or satellite phone. Situations may arise that aren’t thoroughly covered in training flights, and ATC can provide vital information to land the plane safely.

Reassuring Crew and Passengers
After assessing the problem and working on a solution, pilots should notify the crew and passengers about the emergency. Calming the passengers’ fears is a necessity for every pilot. Anxiety can become an issue when passengers are not informed why conditions on a flight are erratic. Although it may not be easy for people to hear that the plane is experiencing problems, most people appreciate the truth and dislike delayed announcements.

Flight Crew Emergency Response
Depending on the severity of the problem, pilots may have to reroute to another airport or attempt an emergency landing. A raised panel or malfunctioning landing gear may not require an immediate landing, but they will need instant correction before a minor issue becomes a life-threatening one. With adequate training and assistance from the flight crew and ATC, pilots and their team should react promptly to fix any issue regardless of the severity. In a potentially life-threatening event, the crew is critical in calming the passengers and maintaining order.

Post-Flight Measures
When a plane lands safely after an accident or malfunction, the aircraft should be thoroughly inspected by the pilot and engineers. Even a minor issue like a malfunctioning instrument panel should warrant a careful examination of the plane’s systems. Sometimes, a small problem can lead to a major issue if the problem’s source is not identified and corrected immediately. Pre-flight and post-flight checklists are designed to prevent potential accidents and should not be shortened or rushed through.

Although training can help prepare for a possible emergency, a pilot must react quickly to unfamiliar problems and frequently communicate with the tower.

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