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Old 03-15-2006, 05:38 PM   #1  
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Question To Declare an Emergency or Not?

I have a few questions regarding declaring an emergency with ATC, and why you WOULD or would NOT declare an emergency. Your comments would be appreciated. Here are some scenarios:

SITUATION 1 - Pilot tells ATC that his Number X hydraulic system has failed. NEGATIVE emergency, but he wants the emergency equipment "STANDING BY". I have no idea what each individual hydraulic system controls on the many different aircraft that fly within my sector. Is this a paperwork issue to have the equipment standing by -vs- meeting you at the runway? Or is it a public relations issue with the passengers seeing the emergency equipment waiting at the edge of the runway?

SITUATION 2 - A passenger has a heart attack at FL230. The pilot contacts his local Operations at AUS to have an ambulance standing by, but he never informs ATC of this critical situation until he's on final 10 miles from the airport. The Center could have deleted all speed restrictions... sent him direct to the airport... and then AUS Approach/Tower would have made the aircraft #1 instead of vectoring for sequence and spacing.

SITUATION 3 - CRJ departs and immediately takes a bird strike. The pilot states that it's nothing serious, but he wants to declare an emergency. Another aircraft takes a bird strike, notifies the Tower to ensure that "Bird Activity" is on the ATIS, and then continues on with his flight. Is one pilot being safe and prudent, while the other is being reckless?

SITUATION 4 - A cargo hauler tells the Center that he has fumes in the cockpit. It's not an emergency, but the crew is on oxygen. The pilot does not want the emergency equipment standing by.

SITUATION 5 - Aircraft goes around on short final due to an unsafe gear indication. We tell the pilot that the gear appear to be down and locked, and the crew then performs some checklist items on the downwind as they are being vectored back for landing. The pilot wants the emergency equipment "standing by", but does not want to declare an emergency.

Please tell me what your companies require of you in these (or similar) situations. Are you discouraged from declaring an emergency? Does declaring an emergency generate a mound of paperwork for you? Do you have to justify your decision to declare an emergency? What would happen if you didn't declare an emergency when you should have made the call?

Thanks for any insight that you can provide.

MEM_ATC

Last edited by AUS_ATC; 03-19-2006 at 10:21 PM.
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Old 03-15-2006, 06:15 PM   #2  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM_ATC
I have a few questions regarding declaring an emergency with ATC, and why you WOULD or would NOT declare an emergency. Your comments would be appreciated. Here are some scenarios:

SITUATION 1 - Pilot tells ATC that his Number X hydraulic system has failed. NEGATIVE emergency, but he wants the emergency equipment "STANDING BY". I have no idea what each individual hydraulic system controls on the many different aircraft that fly within my sector. Is this a paperwork issue to have the equipment standing by -vs- meeting you at the runway? Or is it a public relations issue with the passengers seeing the emergency equipment waiting at the edge of the runway?
IMHO, a single hydraulics failure isn't a serious situation. It's certainly something that I would want to have the longest appropriate runway for, and would need to evaluate further. Either way, such an incident is most likely going to result in paperwork, since you are probably going to return to the airport (unless said failure occured on descent or final). Personally, I would probably have you roll the trucks and explain the situation to the passengers before landing.

Quote:
SITUATION 2 - A passenger has a heart attack at FL230. The pilot contacts his local Operations at AUS to have an ambulance standing by, but he never informs ATC of this critical situation until he's on final 10 miles from the airport. The Center could have deleted all speed restrictions... sent him direct to the airport... and then AUS Approach/Tower would have made the aircraft #1 instead of vectoring for sequence and spacing.
I don't know why any pilot wouldn't declare an emergency, for exactly the same reasons as you stated. Personally, I've stopped on the taxiway/run up block after clearing the runway to allow EMTs onto the plane when I had a heart attack. Every second counts.

Quote:
SITUATION 3 - CRJ departs and immediately takes a bird strike. The pilot states that it's nothing serious, but he wants to declare an emergency. Another aircraft takes a bird strike, notifies the Tower to ensure that "Bird Activity" is on the ATIS, and then continues on with his flight. Is one pilot being safe and prudent, while the other is being reckless?
This one varies greatly. A small bird isn't a big deal. Might leave a small dent somewhere on the wing or fuselage and only require inspection after arriving at the destination. Sometimes we don't know that we hit a bird until after we arrive. Other times it can be significantly different...

Here's some pictures of an ACA CRJ that hit a turkey at about 110kts on takeoff (crew aborted the takeoff): Pictures: This is definately an emergency... a lot depends on the size of the bird, the speed of the plane at impact, and the location of the strike.

Quote:
SITUATION 4 - A cargo hauler tells the Center that he has fumes in the cockpit. It's not an emergency, but the crew is on oxygen. The pilot does not want the emergency equipment standing by.
Another example of pilot attempting to avoid paperwork I suppose. Once again a scenario where an emergency should be declared as far as I'm concerned. If I'm using emergency equipment (O2) it's an emergency.

Quote:
ON 5 - Aircraft goes around on short final due to an unsafe gear indication. We tell the pilot that the gear appear to be down and locked, and the crew then performs some checklist items on the downwind as they are being vectored back for landing. The pilot wants the emergency equipment "standing by, but does not want to declare an emergency.
In this case, if the gear shows down and locked and we've successfully performed an alternate gear extension, it's not an emergency as far as I am concerned. I probably would elect not to declare an emergency. However if there was any doubt to the status of the gear, you'd better believe that we're stopping on the runway and want the equipment to roll.

Quote:
Tell me what your companies require of you in these (or similar) situations. Are you discouraged from declaring an emergency? Does declaring an emergency generate a mound of paperwork for you? Do you have to justify your decision to declare an emergency? What would happen if you didn't declare an emergency when you should have made the call?

Thanks for any insight that you can provide?

MEM_ATC
In my case, most of these incidents are going to result in paperwork anyway. It does me no harm to declare an emergency. However, I also tend to consider the severity of the situation and the impact on overall operations declaring an emergency would have. Finally, I tend to err on the side of caution- it's a lot easier to justify why you did call for help, rather than why you didn't in most circumstances.

Last edited by FlyerJosh; 03-15-2006 at 06:17 PM.
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Old 03-15-2006, 06:37 PM   #3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM ATC
ON 5 - Aircraft goes around on short final due to an unsafe gear indication. We tell the pilot that the gear appear to be down and locked, and the crew then performs some checklist items on the downwind as they are being vectored back for landing. The pilot wants the emergency equipment "standing by, but does not want to declare an emergency.
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyerJosh
In this case, if the gear shows down and locked and we've successfully performed an alternate gear extension, it's not an emergency as far as I am concerned. I probably would elect not to declare an emergency. However if there was any doubt to the status of the gear, you'd better believe that we're stopping on the runway and want the equipment to roll.
I agree with Josh on this one. This exact senario actually happened to us a few months ago. We were on short final, just before the OM. The gear came down and we only got two green. Then the oral and indications, "Gear Misconfigure". We went around, ran the QRH, recycled the gear and the problem fixed its self. In fact all ATC knew was that we had a malfunction and we needed to go around. We would have given specifics, details and declared an emergency if the gear hadn't come down a second time, (not to mention the trucks like Josh said), but in this case we now have three safe gear indications and the problem that caused the situation was a known and defered system malfunction. There wasn't a reason to even write it up.
 
Old 03-15-2006, 06:53 PM   #4  
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There is almost no reason not to declair an emergency. It is a no harm, no foul situation. No one wants to make everyone excited for no reason but in almost all the previous situations I would have given considerable thought to declairing an emergency.
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Old 03-15-2006, 10:27 PM   #5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM_ATC
I have a few questions regarding declaring an emergency with ATC, and why you WOULD or would NOT declare an emergency. Your comments would be appreciated. Here are some scenarios:

SITUATION 1 - Pilot tells ATC that his Number X hydraulic system has failed. NEGATIVE emergency, but he wants the emergency equipment "STANDING BY". I have no idea what each individual hydraulic system controls on the many different aircraft that fly within my sector. Is this a paperwork issue to have the equipment standing by -vs- meeting you at the runway? Or is it a public relations issue with the passengers seeing the emergency equipment waiting at the edge of the runway?

SITUATION 2 - A passenger has a heart attack at FL230. The pilot contacts his local Operations at AUS to have an ambulance standing by, but he never informs ATC of this critical situation until he's on final 10 miles from the airport. The Center could have deleted all speed restrictions... sent him direct to the airport... and then AUS Approach/Tower would have made the aircraft #1 instead of vectoring for sequence and spacing.

SITUATION 3 - CRJ departs and immediately takes a bird strike. The pilot states that it's nothing serious, but he wants to declare an emergency. Another aircraft takes a bird strike, notifies the Tower to ensure that "Bird Activity" is on the ATIS, and then continues on with his flight. Is one pilot being safe and prudent, while the other is being reckless?

SITUATION 4 - A cargo hauler tells the Center that he has fumes in the cockpit. It's not an emergency, but the crew is on oxygen. The pilot does not want the emergency equipment standing by.

SITUATION 5 - Aircraft goes around on short final due to an unsafe gear indication. We tell the pilot that the gear appear to be down and locked, and the crew then performs some checklist items on the downwind as they are being vectored back for landing. The pilot wants the emergency equipment "standing by, but does not want to declare an emergency.

Please tell me what your companies require of you in these (or similar) situations. Are you discouraged from declaring an emergency? Does declaring an emergency generate a mound of paperwork for you? Do you have to justify your decision to declare an emergency? What would happen if you didn't declare an emergency when you should have made the call?

Thanks for any insight that you can provide?

MEM_ATC
1) I would consider that a real emergency and declare it as such. Even with two HYD systems functioning, flight control performance and redundancy will be degraded.

2) Our normal reaction to that sort of medical situation is to declare an emergency, get direct routing routing and arrive at the marker at 300 Kts.


3) Depends on where the strike was, and how big was the bird...I'd probably RTB for a goose, but anything smaller would just depend on the situation.

4) After ValueJet and SwissAir, there is no legitimate reason not to declare. An illegitimate reason might be that the flight is operating in non-compliance with one or more regs and does not want to attract FAA/NTSB people.

5) See #4


Most 121 ops will have to do paperwork for any event that is remotely unusual (ie go-around, abort T/O). Any situation where declaring an emergency is even up for discussion would almost certainly have already triggered the company paperwork anyway. It is much better to declare and not really need it, than to not declare and wish you had. I don't know of anyone who has been second-guessed, although I'm sure it can happen (with airline Mgt today, anything is possible... ) Hope this helps.
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Old 03-17-2006, 02:13 AM   #6  
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Hi everyone,

I started reading this board after googling info on dispatchers and their jobs - I'm coming up on retirement eligibility from the FAA, and I'm looking for that post-retirement job. However, I read this thread, and I wanted to toss a couple of thoughts out, though I really don't want to turn this into an ATC debate:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM_ATC
SITUATION 1 - Pilot tells ATC that his Number X hydraulic system has failed. NEGATIVE emergency, but he wants the emergency equipment "STANDING BY".
OK, remember here that it's not only the pilot that can declare an emergency. I can as a controller, as can the operator of the aircraft. In this case, as soon as you say you want the emergency gear standing by, I'm now considering the situation an emergency. "Say souls on board and fuel remaining in pounds!".

Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM_ATC
SITUATION 4 - A cargo hauler tells the Center that he has fumes in the cockpit. It's not an emergency, but the crew is on oxygen. The pilot does not want the emergency equipment standing by.
Fumes in the cockpit and the crew's on O2? No question, I just declared an emergency, "Say souls on board and fuel remaining in pounds!".

Quote:
Originally Posted by MEM_ATC
SITUATION 5 - Aircraft goes around on short final due to an unsafe gear indication. We tell the pilot that the gear appear to be down and locked, and the crew then performs some checklist items on the downwind as they are being vectored back for landing. The pilot wants the emergency equipment "standing by, but does not want to declare an emergency.
See #1. If a pilot indicates that he wants emergency equipment out, it's an emergency as far as I am concerned. What's that catch phrase? Oh yeah, "Say souls on board and fuel remaining in pounds!" (gets monotonous, huh?)

In 22 years of ATC I've run the gamut from lost C150s to turbojets engines on fire or various parts falling off (like the DC-8 that lost a JT8D - completely departed the aircraft - and the Lear 35 that dropped a left main gear assembly on the runway). When bad stuff, or stuff I even think might be bad, it's handled as an emergency. No one has to tell me yea or nay.

Aloha!
 
Old 03-17-2006, 04:37 AM   #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyerJosh
IMHO, a single hydraulics failure isn't a serious situation.
That all depends on the aircraft you are flying and the role hydraulics plays for it.
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Old 03-17-2006, 12:56 PM   #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhc8fo
That all depends on the aircraft you are flying and the role hydraulics plays for it.
Very true. And to be perfectly honest, when I think through those planes that use hydraulics for flight control actuation, I would most likely declare an emergency. Probably wouldn't in my little old slowtation...
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Old 03-17-2006, 06:29 PM   #9  
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From a military cargo pilot point of view, anytime you want the emergency equipment standing by you should declare an emergency. I have never heard of asking for the emergency equipment to be standing by without declaring an emergency. I understand the airlines have a different beast to deal with that being passeger comfort and hassle along with the perception a passenger may have of an airline after seeing lights and firetrucks surround the plane. All that possibly leading to lost customers. As far as waiting to declare an emergency, I have seen that on numerous occasions in the Air Force. Sometimes the situation does not dictate an immediate request and the pilot desires to continue and opt to declare when with approach control or center prior to arrival. This would occur when an immediate landing is not required and the pilot decides to contimue to a location with repair capability (Air Force Base with like aircraft) but wishes emergency equipment standing by. As far as paperwork, it's very minimal if any. You won't see a military aircraft (at least not a C-130) not declare an emergency to avoid paperwork. Hope that helps a bit.

P.S. I'm from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas and we coordiante with you guys (Memphis ATC) a lot during our training over Arkansas. Thanks for your work! We appreciate you guys working with us and accomodating some of our what may seem like weird requests.
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Old 03-19-2006, 10:23 PM   #10  
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Thanks for all of the many responses and background information that everyone posted!

MEM_ATC
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