Between Theory and Practice
Edited By Silvia Hansen-Schirra and Karin Maksymski
Marcel Mattenberger: “Declaring Emergency” – A Pilot’s View
125 Marcel Mattenberger “Declaring Emergency” – A Pilot’s View 1 Declaring Emergency? I have been working as a pilot for over 30 years starting with flying fighter air- craft in the Air force and, later on, airliners in commercial aviation with a total of over 13,000 hours flight time – and I have never declared an emergency. However, I have spent around 2,000 hours in flight simulators as an instructor and examiner, where pilots are trained in abnormal and emergency situations – and there I hardly attended a simulator session where the crew did not declare an emergency. What is “Declaring Emergency”? A few explanations of safety standards and the communication situation in avia- tion are needed to answer this question. 2 Safety Standards It is common knowledge that the safety standards in aviation are very high and sufficiently devised. I would like to exemplify the safety system on the MD11, a three-engine long-haul aircraft, which has the capacity to fly non-stop 12-hour flights with about 250 passengers (the distance flown is equal to almost a quarter of the circumference of the earth). 2.1 “One System only” Aircraft such as the MD11, the Airbus or the Boeing aircraft are all designed in the same way: every technical system exists either twice or even three times (e.g., three engines or three communication devices). Whenever one of the sys- tems fails, the pilots can rely on the remaining system. When the system is of high importance it exists in triplicate, in order to...
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