In a serious but non-catastrophic situation on a commercial flight (for example, a single engine failure on an A320), I understand that the pilots will follow a standard checklist (from the QRH) to put the aircraft into a safe condition.

My question is - will such a checklist generally include an explicit item to inform ATC, the cabin crew, and/or the passengers, or is this generally assumed to be done as a "standard procedure"? If it is usually on the checklist, would it always come at the end, or are there situations where ATC might need to know about the incident as soon as possible?


2 Answers 2


In the case of A320, yes it does. Here’s an example of the emergency procedure for ditching. Note there are four instances where it tells the pilot to communicate with the cabin.

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  • $\begingroup$ Also note the ATC... NOTIFY, which answer's the second half of the OP's question. In electrical failure modes, not all radios may be available, so it serves as a guide to which radio to use. $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Jul 9, 2018 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the information, that's just what I was looking for. In particular, the sequencing does appear to vary depending on the nature of the incident. I assume that the procedures are only available on a commercial basis - or is there somewhere they can be (legally) obtained publically? $\endgroup$
    – Tevildo
    Jul 10, 2018 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Tevildo There are copies of the FCOM and QRH out there on the net. I'm not sure exactly how legal it is for them to be out there. Airbus might consider it proprietary info. But if you do some googling you can usually find them. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jul 10, 2018 at 18:51

The classic saying in an emergency is

  1. Aviate
  2. Navigate
  3. Communicate

Fly the plane, find a field, then deal with the radios as my instructor used to say. The checklists generally only cover how to work the aircraft from an aircraft operation standpoint but may note it towards the end. Since in most cases you have two people in the cockpit CRM often results in one of the two people manning the radios. In this case the pilot flying the aircraft may work the problem as the co-pilot relays the info to ATC. However emergencies may require you to communicate as part of working the problem i.e. requesting an altitude block to work the problem. This is the actual emergency checklist I trained with the only note to contact ATC/declare is under the Time Permitting section.


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