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Emergency landings and/or forced landings are stressful situations, but talking about meanings, are they the same, please?

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Not all forced landings are emergencies, and not all emergencies are forced landings! (See below)

In general, the term "Emergency Landing" is a superset which covers a bunch of different scenarios where a landing is not quite to plan. Such as

  • Forced landing due to mechanical failure. Note that a forced landing can absolutely be at an airfield. It can also be in a literal field.
  • Precautionary landing, such as where continued flight is possible but inadvisable
  • Ditching in a body of water
  • Belly landing due to inoperable landing gear

A forced landing can also be one where the pilot is forced to land due to military interception, which is not always an emergency.

This is all covered in great detail here


The FAA also publish some useful information on this subject which repeats much of the above information, reproduced below for clarity

Types of Emergency Landings
The different types of emergency landings are defined as follows:
• Forced landing—an immediate landing, on or off an airport, necessitated by the inability to continue further flight. A typical example of which is an airplane forced down by engine failure.
• Precautionary landing—a premeditated landing, on or off an airport, when further flight is possible but inadvisable. Examples of conditions that may call for a precautionary landing include deteriorating weather, being lost, fuel shortage, and gradually developing engine trouble.
• Ditching—a forced or precautionary landing on water

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    $\begingroup$ In the UK Forced Landing = Emergency Landing $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Feb 15 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD I'd like to see some source for that, it would make a good addition to this answer. In 20 years of flying in the UK, I'm not sure I've seen any official definitions $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 15 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD Also, as my first sentence alludes to, there has been the occasional military interception which force a landing at stansted (usually) which are not emergencies. So not all forced landings = emergency landings. The terms are used fairly interchangably - does not mean that they are the exact same thing. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 15 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ I've only heard "forced landing" synonymous as an unscheduled landing without power. e.g. PFL. I wouldn't consider an enforced landing by somebody to be a "forced landing" in this context. $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Feb 15 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ I sort of agree, I've only heard it used in the same context. But, that's not what ICAO says. Interested in any sources other than "Thats what I always thought" $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Feb 15 at 15:42

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