Safety topic from Episode 8

Emergency procedures

In our safety topic “Know your aircraft”, we covered the importance of reading your aircraft’s Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) and familiarising yourself with the recommended procedures for operating your aircraft as safely and efficiently as possible. Let’s revisit that Emergency Procedures topic. Under this heading, your POH should offer you guidance in the following situations:

  • emergency operational checklists
  • engine failure
  • forced landings, ditching
  • fires
  • icing
  • landing with a flat tyre (practise this anytime!)
  • electrical power failure

Depending on the category and complexity of aircraft you fly, this list can of course vary. The point is, know the procedures for your own aircraft and if there’s anything you don’t understand, then ask an instructor to help you. 

Forced landings

There’s no better preparation for an emergency landing than recent practice. Make it a part of your everyday flying routine to choose an appropriate location, simulate an engine failure and practise going through the recommended procedures to be in the best position so as to land you and your aircraft safely on the ground. 

The more you practise forced landings, the more readily those immediate vital actions will kick in, and the less daunting and intimidating your task will seem. Panic is a very disabling reaction for a pilot. If you take the panic out of the real-life scenario, you are much better equipped mentally to carry out what’s needed to execute a successful forced landing. 

Even when you are cruising along in sunshine with a nice tailwind, get into the habit of looking at the terrain at regular intervals, always assessing what you’d do right now in the event of an engine failure. Is there an airstrip around? What’s the wind doing? Is there a homestead or signs of civilization within gliding distance? Do you have the most logical frequency on hand for an emergency radio call?  

Be aware that Airservices Australia does not monitor CTAFs or the Multicom frequency, 126.7. If you suffer an emergency, calling PAN or MAYDAY on these frequencies might result in no-one hearing you. In Class G airspace, remember that it is only on the Area frequency that assistance from Airservices may be sought.

If you’re looking down and seeing nothing but tiger country, perhaps that’s a reminder for next time to consider the geography of your route during your flight planning at home, and choose more friendly terrain over which to fly. Often, it won’t add significant miles to your route to do so, and think about the added safety margin you will enjoy, rather than the couple of dollars of fuel it may cost you. 

One more thing – in a forced landing scenario, always remember that it’s not an exam! If, in the heat of the moment, you forget one of those emergency checks, that mayday call or that passenger brief, then guess what? It’s probably because you’re applying all your attention to manoeuvring the aircraft towards a safe landing. That’s a GOOD thing! At the end of the day, it’s up to you to save lives here, and you need to get that done the best way you know how. Never underestimate the importance of just flying the aircraft. 

Remember: AVIATE…..NAVIGATE…..COMMUNICATE – In that order!!


It’s better to swat up on this one, rather than being in denial that it’ll never happen to you. Once again, if you don’t HAVE to fly over water, beyond gliding distance from a suitable landing place, then why do it? Large stretches of water are invariably less scenic for your passengers anyway.

Your aircraft’s Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) provides detailed handling information for the execution of a ditching. 

Also read through CAAP 253-1(1). It takes you through some solid advice on recommended procedures for ditching, including:

  • impact the water as slowly as possible under full control; don’t stall the aircraft in
  • keep wings level in calm conditions, parallel with the surface of the water
  • ditch into wind, thus slowing the aircraft down
  • in more severe swell or breaking waves, ditch along the swell, not into the face of the wave

Refer to the list of resources at the end of this page for further information on general procedures for over water flights.

Bird Strike

Refer to our separate topic on Bird Strikes in Out-n-Back.


Never leave home without the current ERSA. Apart from it being the bible as far as providing up to date information on hundreds of aerodromes around Australia, the Emergency section at the back of the ERSA is an invaluable aid when your best laid plans are going awfully wrong in the cockpit.

Know what it contains! You will benefit greatly from some bedtime reading on crucial topics like:

  • communication and NAVAID failure
  • survival advice (desert, sea, jungle, cold)
  • activation of ELT
  • air search patterns
  • ground/air emergency light signals 
  • first aid  
  • ADIZ procedures 


  • CAAP 253-1(1) - Ditching
  • Over water flights CAR 258, AIP ENR 1.1 62
  • Floatation equipment CAO 20.11 (5)
  • SKED Procedures ERSA GEN SP-1