Don’t Just Wing It: Preparing for Emergency Situations


Tips for Pilot Emergency Preparedness.

A 2015 study tested pilots in a Boeing 747 simulator on the pilots’ emergency preparedness. The case study revealed that “all eighteen pilots performed impeccably, providing the correct response for each emergency.” These results, however, seemed to differ greatly from the airline incidents recently reported at the time, so the researchers decided to take their tests to the next level. They presented pilots with the same emergencies as the first test, but brought in differing factors. The results? They aligned right with the accident and incident reports they had been seeing. The pilots, when presented with these new situations, struggled to remember how to resolve the issue or made critical errors.

So what does this mean for aviators’ emergency preparedness training? Steve Casner, a research psychologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said, “emergency drills tend to be predictable exercises in which people know exactly what’s coming and when.” With that said, how do you, as the pilot, fix that? Below are a few strategies to combat any routine emergency training procedures.

Practice makes perfect.

The more you can reliably practice different emergency procedures safely (i.e. in a sim), the more knowledgeable and skilled your reactions to those incidents will be. The more you practice, the more these scenarios become almost muscle memory. The reason pilots are comfortable with the typical emergency training is because the situations are expected and, usually, something that has already been experienced. Try practicing with different considerations such as weather, flight level, phase of flight, in conjunction with other abnormal conditions. Spice up what has become the norm for emergency procedures training.

Emergency procedures in-flight

Train your brain.

Familiarize yourself with the “Emergency Procedures” section of your aircraft’s flight manual. Either create your own method of testing yourself, incorporate scenarios into your recurrent training, such as using one of the many resources available on emergency procedures in areas not commonly tested on during initial and recurrent training (for example, from the AOPA) or consider some in-aircraft upset training from one of the quality providers out there. Along with physically knowing the aircraft, recognizing signs and knowing what to do without having to think too much about it is key. In a matter of minutes, what was a moderate emergency can escalate into a severe situation. But, with the right amount of training, you can know the procedures and be better prepared to decipher and process the situation when things don’t go as planned.

Ask for help.

Seriously, contact ATC if something is wrong. They can assist you, so not all of the thinking is on you. Some people tend to tense up or go blank during an emergency. Asking for and receiving help may make the difference in how the flight ends.

Remain calm.

Although certainly easier said than done, not overreacting when something goes wrong can be a huge factor in not making a critical or, in some cases, fatal mistake. Want to learn more on this? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how to keep your cool during emergency situations.

The safety of the flight can’t always be ensured, no matter how many tests or checklists there are. Sometimes things just go wrong. Knowing what to do when they do go wrong can severely increase the likelihood of a safe landing for you, the passengers, and the aircraft.



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