Mooneymite

Declaring an emergency, .....or not.

37 posts in this topic

I had to declare an emergency the other day due to a mechanical issue.  This is my first emergency since I got out of the Navy 38 years ago.  I won't bore you with the details of the emergency, but I had to get the plane on the ground in a hurry and ATC couldn't issue me a clearance that would get me on the ground quickly (I was IFR in IMC).  Everything worked out; I landed safely with no damage to me, my plane, or the airport.  I called ATC once on the ground and told them I had landed and didn't need any further assistance.

That's where the story begins:   Shortly thereafter (amazingly quickly), I got a call from a FSDO inspector and was informed he was opening an investigation.  That was about the last thing I wanted to hear right then.

The investigation started with my statement, but progressed to the point where the inspector actually went out to my aircraft and watched while repair was done and the logs were signed off.  Afterwards, the inspector followed up with an investigation into the repaired parts and who signed them off....this did not endear me to the people providing the repaired parts!

After a period of time (it seemed like a long time), I was finally told that the investigation was closed and that no further action would be taken.

You are probably wondering what sort of pilot gets this special attention.  All I can say it that I have a 46 year clean record (about 29,000 hours).  The only time I interface with the FSDO is to renew my CFI.  It isn't like I have an emergency every week, violate airspace, and use bad language talking to controllers.

I have always believed that declaring an emergency was a no-risk event and that as long as you didn't hurt anyone, or bend any aluminum, it was a non-event.  Apparently that's not so.

So, is this change?  Has anyone else experienced this?  Is this just a policy of this particular FSDO?  Is this a new FAA-wide policy?  Is this just a single, eager-beaver inspector?  Obviously, there is some mechanism where ATC transmits information about emergency declarations to the FSDO.

Won't this policy have a chilling effect on pilots declaring an emergency due to fears of an "investigation"?

 

 

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I've declared three times in 20 years, I suspect the FBO (rental) was investigated for the first engine failure, but no followup from FAA on the other two - my aircraft... go figure. Have no where near your hours....


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I have declared an emergency once for non-mil aviation. 

loss of power due to failure in 2 cylinders. Grumman AA1-A (no engine monitor - I didn't know better then)

I was within glide distance to CRP and landed no issues. No interaction with the FAA whatsoever. This was VFR. No traffic got diverted/held/wave off/course deviation. So maybe the difference lies there? I feel like you should be able to ask the investigator though. There should be no reason to fear the FAA and if they mistreat we should be able to hold them accountable. 

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In reading your post I thought that perhaps FSDO got involved because there was a loss of separation during your emergency descent, but when they moved on to investigate the repair facility, it seemed more like the inspector was looking for someone to blame for something.  Great job getting the plane on the ground with no injuries or damage!

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Glad everything worked out for you, Gus. But that is contrary to everything I've ever heard about pilots declaring emergencies. Maybe it was related to the inability to get on the ground via a clearance but doing so anyway? Seems like you followed the commandments in order:  aviate, navigate, communicate. Glad you're alright!

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Curious did you squawk 7700?

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Surely it's the IFR in IMC thing.  Maybe you had to descend below sector minimums or there was a traffic conflict?  Either way, if I'm declaring an emergency (which I've only done once...ironically, first solo as a student pilot with my instructor in the tower), the subsequent investigation is the last thing on my mind.

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Mite- feed it back to AOPA. They have for years advocated to declare and not fear the possibility of an investigation. "Just a little paperwork- nothing to be worried about" seems to be the learning point over and over. The fact that this experience is counter to that theme may generate some interest.

Also - it is possible that they FSDO had no beef wth you but they wanted to pin something on their favorite repair station. GA pilots seldom interact with the friendlies but the repair stations interact frequently. It may be that you were caught in the middle of something.

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Really sounds like the investigator was an airworthiness inspector and the investigation was concerning the mechanical or maintenance aspects of your emergency - not you as the pilot. Probably had nothing to do with you or when it happened other than you needed to declare. My sense is based on the mechanical nature of what happened someone wanted to to make sure maintenance was being done properly. Could it have been that specific?

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I have declared twice and they investigated the last one. At one time, I think the ATC guys handling you could decide whether to report it up, but in the last few years, there is more of a push to have them report every instance.  I think their criteria is, if there was a loss of separation or if other traffic was impacted, it must be reported,  In my case, other traffic had to be put on hold until my issue was resolved. They called me once, listened to what I had to say and asked for the name and number of the A&P who was making the repairs. I suspect they called him, but I don't know for sure. No further action. I lost a cylinder and a vacuum pump within minutes of each other, and they may have had the same skepticism as I did, to such a coincidence.

I believe it is a matter of luck as to whether they will investigate, but my belief is; don't declare just for fun, but if you feel threatened, don't hesitate to declare.

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First of all, as others have said, congratulations and great job on getting yourself safely on the ground. I find that any problem is multiplied by 10 in intensity if I'm IMC, and sounds like you handled it like a pro.

And I do understand that after a stressful event, anything, especially a brush with the FAA, isn't going to be welcome. But in reading your description of the inspectors actions, and sitting out here in the cheap seats, I don't find this alarming. Your profile says that you are near ATL... did the event happen in/near ATL airspace? If so, as we all know, they are kind of protective of that particular airspace, and they probably have FSDO inspectors sitting on their ass just to chase down things like this when they happen. And the fact that the inspector wanted to check out the repairs gives me the sense that maybe he had prior experience with something like this.

Again, fantastic job handling the emergency. You took the right actions, and the investigation being closed without any further action absolutely proves it.

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I've noted an increase in reporting criteria as well. I once got a call from Long Beach FSDO asking first if this was my plane, I said yes, then to describe what happened on a weekday with my airplane. I told him I wasn't flying that day and my airplane was at my mechanic looking at a manifold pressure item i had him look into. Well it turns out, that a test pilot was flying my plane that day and he asked for a return for landing without declaring an emergency as he was not comfortable with the engine sound. I then gave them the mechanic # and they contacted them to get this matter closed with some discussion between them and my mechanic.

I have noticed that they ask lots of questions when you change your original plan, like landing at an earlier airport than previously filed, as I asked for once as i didn't like the weather at planned destination, and was thinking of waiting at an earlier airport than planned, but they kept trying to get me to say, "i understand you're requesting landing earlier because of a fuel issue, correct?" which i never said. Still won't stop me from declaring an emergency or different than originally planned for whatever reason, but I'm thinking if the reason you say is any thing mechanical (not a reason like "i have to pee") or anything related to fuel miscalculation, there might be another question or two that might need to be answered later.

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I am member of my local FSDO's FAASTeam and what Don said above about reporting every issue is true. It used to be they had the option not to report every pilot deviation unless their was a loss of separation. Now the controllers are required to write up every pilot deviation - that includes in the towers and in the TRACONs and ARTCC's - maybe there are some exceptions but that is what I am hearing. And ironically this being done as part of the FAA latest initiative https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/cp/ called their Compliance Philosophy. If you regularly attend FAA Wings Safety Seminar you have no doubt heard of it. But under the Compliance initiative, the FAA talks about how to try to use remedial training rather than enforcement action (e.g. suspensions) which is good but nothing new. But a "pilot deviation" is not an emergency and wouldn't get written up the same way but if they couldn't get traffic out of the way fast enough I imagine it could have resulted in the same kind of visibility.

regardless an emergency is an emergency period and not the time to be considering the arm chair scrutiny that will come later; even if its performed by an FAA proctologist!

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I've only declared an emergency once in my 40+ years of flying. Lost BOTH the engine driven fuel pump and a partial malfunction of the dual speed boost pump. I was at FL210 in winter with IFR conditions below. Over the Big Bear mountains, but an easy glide to Palm Springs. The engine would not run above idle all the way to the ground. LA Center, then (I think) So Cal cleared the very busy airspace so I could get to KSPS in a "Commercial Spiral". All worked out just fine, and there was no FAA follow up. When on the ground I called So Cal (it might have been LA Center- this was two decades ago), and their response was "Glad you are safe. You did your job, we did ours. have a nice day".


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SImilar situation. I had a total power loss in my Mooney and declared so I could land against the traffic flow of an airport with a fair amount of cargo and corporate jet activity. I glided to the runway. ATC took all my info on the ground. Next day I got a call from the fsdo asking if I was ok. He then asked where the engine was. I'd called some friends and pulled the engine the next am. So his causal query was actually on his cell standing next to my plane. He then said he needed to get some info but it was just to "close some paperwork" which I had be warned was precisely the verbiage he'd use. 

He asked to meet me at the engine (I'd sent it to the local a&p school for the students to witness the tare down) with the logs. He looked at the engine and quickly realized it was a manufacturing issue (1000 SFNEW). And then asked to see the logs and darted out of there with them before I could blink. 

A week later a friend who was close with the fsdo of as able to get my logs. After all that I called months later to ask about the investigation (surely the FAA was interested in such a defect). I was told I would have to file a FoIA request. I did and eventually got back a short note that the FAA does not keep records beyond 6 months and the investigation was closed. 

Clearly the only thing that would have been interesting would have been an expired medical or gear AD missed. 

 

I wouldnt declare an emergency unless you really need to; it does start a buerocratic process.   

 

-Robert 

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They are happy to declare one for you whether or not you use the words... if your requests or statements warrant.


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Posted (edited)

nope

Edited by peevee

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Posted (edited)

Nope.

Edited by peevee

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9 minutes ago, peevee said:

Not true. Or, at best it's about 20% true. I really don't want to drift into the how's and why's. I believe It comes down to what rules were broken

I got the full prostate exam and no rules broken. A landing clearance was denied someone and approach held arrivals. But no separation issues etc. 

-Robert

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In addition to deviations for weather and other situations attributed to Mother Nature, I had a couple of urgencies and did not declare, but did declare once about 5 years ago.  On our way from KY to FL we experienced sudden continuous roughness as I passed directly over KTRI.  On the way down the cold CHT and EGT made me think of partially plugged injector.  We taxied directly to the maintenance shop, asked for injector cleaning on that cyl, test fly around the pattern, and on our way to FL.  Recent tank reseal was a big hint too...

I was not on ATL Center and talking directly to KTRI, and no questions asked. 

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Posted (edited)

nope.

Edited by peevee
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Posted (edited)

2 minutes ago, peevee said:

Unless you have the 7110.65 committed to memory, you don't know that.

I know there were no airplanes between me and the airport. Arrivals were on the opposite side and they simply stopped arrivals while I glided in  

-Robert

Edited by RobertGary1

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Just now, RobertGary1 said:

I know there were no airplanes between me and the airport. Arrivals were on the opposite side and they simply stopped arrivals. 

-Robert

glad you have the full picture. it must be nice to be omnipotent.

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Same team fellas...same team.


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Hahahah... the one sure thing about Internet forums is that as soon as someone says that is their last post on a subject, they are sure to make one more just to remove any doubt as to their status as an ass.

Or it might just be this miserable cold weather...

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