Skip to main content
163 votes

Why do airplanes use MAYDAY when in danger but ships send SOS?

The difference here isn't between ships and aircraft: it's between Morse code and voice. The SOS signal is only for Morse code. It's short, easy to send, and easy to recognise. But it's not as ...
Dan Hulme's user avatar
  • 12.7k
81 votes

How miraculous was the miracle on the Hudson?

This would be an extremely difficult question to answer without being opinionated, but I'll give a try. As part of the investigation, the NTSB, along with other agencies carried out a number of tests ...
aeroalias's user avatar
  • 100k
64 votes

Why are there many pilots who don't say "mayday, mayday, mayday" to declare an emergency?

I'm a controller, not a pilot, so I can only speak from my own perspective. What we are taught in ATC school is that many pilots are reluctant to use the word mayday because they feel it might ...
60levelchange's user avatar
63 votes
Accepted

Why not just drop an engine on fire?

The current position of regulators like the FAA is that dropping things off of airplanes in flight is a bad thing. Dropping extremely large and heavy things like engines would be extremely bad. This ...
fooot's user avatar
  • 73.4k
61 votes
Accepted

Why is the time of useful consciousness only seconds at high altitudes, when I can hold my breath much longer at ground level?

When you are breathing, oxygen ($\mathrm{O}_2$) and carbon dioxide ($\mathrm{CO}_2$) are exchanged between the alveoli in your lungs and the environment. This gas exchange is based on diffusion, which ...
Bianfable's user avatar
  • 55.9k
59 votes

Scared of flying in an Airbus A220

Multiple airlines grounded their entire A220 fleet amid engine concerns Paradoxically, this should make you feel safer, not less safe. The A220 has had zero accidents. Grounding it is not a sign that ...
Chris's user avatar
  • 15.9k
55 votes

Why did the Swiss International Air LX40 (a 777-300ER) emergency land at Iqaluit airport?

Given that the 777-300ER could have easily flown the remainder to LA with one engine -- which means it could have easily diverted to a nearby larger airport -- why didn't it? Standard operating ...
Jan Hudec's user avatar
  • 56.3k
51 votes
Accepted

What level of damage to an aircraft is acceptable to let it depart?

Aircraft Maintenance Engineer here. To evaluate if an aircraft is safe to fly we use three main reference documents: 1. MEL (minimum equipment list). This document contains the list of elements ...
ant Bldel's user avatar
  • 1,132
50 votes
Accepted

What is the procedure when an aircraft with an emergency can't land due to a blocked runway?

What's the procedure? The procedure is, be creative to save as many lives as possible! Really. The procedure is to determine a course of action which will likely result in the best outcome for ...
kevin's user avatar
  • 39.7k
50 votes
Accepted

Why does ATC ask a crew who has declared an emergency if their aircraft will be overweight when landing?

If an aircraft encounters a serious problem quite soon after departure that forces it to land immediately, the aircraft may be above its certified maximum landing weight. This is because there is ...
60levelchange's user avatar
49 votes
Accepted

Do jet aircraft have an emergency propeller?

I think you might have heard about the Ram Air Turbine, which is deployed in case of some aircraft in case of loss of main electrical power supply. From A320 Systems briefing: In case of total loss ...
aeroalias's user avatar
  • 100k
49 votes
Accepted

After declaring an emergency can a pilot legally resume normal navigation without landing?

You haven't missed anything. There's no regulation saying that if you declare an emergency that you must land, if a situation resolves itself or the actions taken mean that a flight is no longer in ...
GdD's user avatar
  • 54k
48 votes
Accepted

How should passengers report SOS signal sightings?

There is a procedure, at least for the aircraft crew. It is appropriate for a flight crew to transmit a "pan pan" or even a "mayday relay" so a passenger should immediately inform the senior cabin ...
Simon's user avatar
  • 31.3k
48 votes

Is it practical to intentionally stall an aircraft to execute a fast, controlled descent?

It isn't practical for a number of reasons: Intentional stalls are inherently dangerous. Stall-spin accidents are a major cause of accidents, stall recognition and recovery are taught specifically to ...
GdD's user avatar
  • 54k
47 votes
Accepted

Why evacuate upwind?

There are two problems linked to the wind after accidents: Inflating the slides. Running away from the aircraft when on the ground @DavidRicherby listed the reasons related to running away upwind to ...
mins's user avatar
  • 74k
46 votes
Accepted

Do you have to explain what your emergency is?

The order is "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate". As a pilot, your first responsibility is to keep the plane flying. After that it is to avoid hitting something or to avoid getting lost. After ...
Ron Beyer's user avatar
  • 36.2k
45 votes
Accepted

Is there any emergency situation in which jet engines would not be shut down before passenger evacuation of a transport aircraft?

It is possible for the engine to not respond to shutdown sequence, so you'd have to get the passengers off before dealing with the rogue engine. In the Qantas Flight 32 one engine had an un-...
Notts90's user avatar
  • 3,569
45 votes
Accepted

Why can't you ditch your aircraft in the sea?

The writer was dramatizing things a bit maybe, it's possible to ditch a jet fighter and survive, however your chances are much better ejecting. Ditching is an option for any aircraft, with some ...
GdD's user avatar
  • 54k
45 votes

What is typical ATC procedure when a non-pilot calls from a commercial flight for help?

There is absolutely nothing "typical" about such a situation, which is also why - as is the case for most abnormal situations and emergencies - there are no detailed and specific standard ...
60levelchange's user avatar
42 votes
Accepted

Does air traffic control identify a distress situation when an aircraft flies triangles in the sky?

To my surprise, this does exist, at least in the UK. According to the Manual of Air Traffic Services: 7 Emergency Triangle Procedure 7.1 Pilots lost or uncertain of position and experiencing ...
Pondlife's user avatar
  • 71.7k
42 votes

Why can't an Airbus A330 dump fuel in an emergency?

To supplement Jimmy's answer, if they had to land right away, they could have; it just would've resulted in an overweight landing being recorded, and which on most airliners triggers a special ...
John K's user avatar
  • 132k
41 votes

Why evacuate upwind?

If there is a fire, any smoke and flames will blow downwind. If there is a fuel leak, the fuel vapours will be blown downwind, risking a fire or explosion there and potentially making it hard to ...
David Richerby's user avatar
41 votes

Why are cockpit alarms still so distracting and unable to be silenced?

A stall condition needs to be handled now, and once it's handled, the alarm will go away. What you don't want to happen is you are in an approaching stall condition, the pilot hits a "silence&...
Ron Beyer's user avatar
  • 36.2k
39 votes
Accepted

Can civilian aircraft fly through or land in restricted airspace in an emergency?

FAR 91.3 states that any pilot in command may deviate from any regulation or rules to the extent needed to deal with the emergency. That includes entering restricted or prohibited airspace. In the ...
Romeo_4808N's user avatar
  • 73.8k
38 votes
Accepted

Why did the Swiss International Air LX40 (a 777-300ER) emergency land at Iqaluit airport?

Standard procedure for all twins is "nearest suitable airport" If you're in a twin, and an engine quits (especially over a remote area like the Arctic), you set a direct course for the nearest ...
UnrecognizedFallingObject's user avatar
36 votes
Accepted

What to do if carbon monoxide is present?

The first thing you're going to want to do is get fresh air into the cabin, by ensuring the vents/windows are open. This will dilute the amount of CO in the cabin and stop your symptoms getting worse -...
Jamiec's user avatar
  • 33.3k
35 votes

How miraculous was the miracle on the Hudson?

It's important to note that there were many elements of both skill and luck involved in the US Airways 1549 "miracle" landing - the NTSB report and NTSB deliberations make for an interesting day of ...
voretaq7's user avatar
  • 68.4k
35 votes
Accepted

At a non-towered airport in the US, what should I do if I hear a medevac flight waiting to take off while I'm turning base?

The most obvious thing to me would be to just talk to them: Medevac 123, this is the Diamond on base for 31, do you need to expedite your departure? If they say no, then just continue and land as ...
Pondlife's user avatar
  • 71.7k
35 votes
Accepted

What happens if you do emergency landing on a US base in middle of the ocean?

Wake Island has had aircraft divert there before, as it serves as an ETOPS diversion airport. Per the remarks on AirNav and the NOTAMs: RSTD: VERY LIMITED OPERATIONS STATUS, AVBL FOR EMERG LDG AND ...
fooot's user avatar
  • 73.4k
34 votes

F-111 emergency landing with no wheel; what is done to reduce risks when loosing a wheel?

What are the relative risks of an ejection vs a no-wheels belly landing. I mean obviously the costly loss of airframe. But is the risk to life pretty even odds? In a conventional aircraft (e.g. ...
Ron Beyer's user avatar
  • 36.2k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible