This question focuses on what the FAA is required to do when pilot declares an emergency, as opposed to what a pilot is required to do. (The answer to this question is not covered in typical pilot training).

Example: Pilot loses situational awareness and becomes lost. Pilot is low on fuel and declares emergency and ATC provides vectors; pilot turns towards nearest airport. Pilot arrives at airport and makes an uneventful landing at small airport. No other traffic was diverted, aircraft and passengers fine, pilot did not deviate from any Part 91 FARs.

After the emergency is over, what legal, administrative, or investigative actions will the FAA or other official bodies take?

I understand that when a pilot declares an emergency the pilot gets priority from air traffic control, and may take reasonable actions for the safety of the flight even if it means deviating from part 91 regulations.

It would appear that, so long as there was no incident or accident, no one is injured, and no regulation is broken that FAA will take a "no harm, no foul" approach.

I'm curious if any one has source information as to what should the pilot expect: a call from ATC, an investigation, nothing, etc.? (Assume no FAA deviations, no injuries or accidents, etc.)

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    $\begingroup$ After a successful landing that did not involve any deviations, the pilot can reasonably expect, "Good landing. Turn next taxiway, contact ground, G'day" $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky that is my intuition also. If you could provide a little backup or rationale there is a little green check-mark in it for you. :) $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ I would, however, assume the NTSB wants to figure out why the engine quit. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JörgWMittag It might seem strange, but there's no requirement to report an engine failure to the NTSB unless something more specific happened, e.g. an uncontained turbine failure or in-flight fire (see 49 CFR 830.5). Even in a large, multi-engine aircraft, you only have to tell the NTSB if two or more engines failed. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I cannot vouch for anything the FAA may be required to do, but I can vouch for Abelenky's comment: After being told on downwind abeam the approach end of the runway, (vapors in the tank after being diverted when my flight lead blew a tire on the runway of another nearby airfield...) to follow a C-130 on DEEP straight in final, I flipped the squawk to 7700, started my approach turn, and told my right seater to announce emergency fuel and our intent to land as soon as the chatter broke. We were cleared immediately, and it ended as described above. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


I don't know the FAA policy, but normally, you don't report deviations from the regs, unless asked to. I have declared emergencies, gotten priority handing in the DCA area, and a variety of eyebrow raising events over the years. However, the FAA has never asked me to submit a written report. Once or twice, I have gotten a call from an operations inspector, and answered their questions, and that was all that became of it.

In general, if you had a bad day, don't tell about it. Just get on the ground safely, and be polite to people, and hope that you don't have any further review. Of course, you must comply with NTSB 830, but if you are required to do that, you have had a really bad day, and might want to get some help (aviation attorney).

  • $\begingroup$ It is FAR 830, not NTSB. Here is the section if people want to look it up ecfr.gov/current/title-49/subtitle-B/chapter-VIII/part-830/… $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @RowanHawkins, you are correct. However in the last 5 decades it is my experience that it is commonly referred to by pilots and CFIs as NTSB 830, rather than 49 FAR 830. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 19:31

The FAA will most likely not take any type of actions dictated by the department itself until after the emergency has taken place. ATC is considered a division of the FAA yet still, they are the ones who are taken the responsibility from the time the emergency was declared to when it has been dealt with/ended. After the incident, the FAA may process an investigation along with the NTSB, though the primary reason the FAA exists is to create standards and regulation for modern aviation and such emergency procedures. The pilot should expect a call from ATC who will guild them to the safest solution possible and will deal with any other parts of the emergency that may arise.


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