Sometimes when I ask pilots what to do when something abnormal happens in flight I get the response “I’d fly the airplane” mean?

Take, for example, a very scary situation. You’re climbing out of 600′ AGL after entering an overcast at 400′ and there is a loud bang! 

What do you look for and what do you do about it?

1) Look at the airspeed indicator and the airspeed trend. Is the aircraft maintaining the same airspeed or is the airspeed decreasing rapidly?

2) Look at the heading. Are you still at the same heading that you were at and what is its trend?

3) Look at your pitch. Is it maintaining what you had or is it increasing or decreasing?

4) Let’s say that airspeed, heading & pitch are where they last were and no deviating trends…

Now Look at your engine instruments – let’s say everything appears to be normal here.

Look at your engine cowling(s) – any major oil leaks, or any unusual vibration? Again let’s say everything here appears normal. (remember to maintain desired airspeed, heading & pitch while troubleshooting). 

Look at the airframe and the flight controls you can see. Did you possibly hit a goose and damage the aircraft? 

Check out your flight controls – see if you’re still in control of the aircraft. (remember to maintain desired airspeed, heading & pitch while troubleshooting). If you hit a bird, a fuel tank may be ruptured and you’re losing fuel in that tank fairly quickly.

Now make a determination as to what to do and tell ATC what your needs are. If the situation is dire, of course, declare an emergency. You will probably tell them you need vectors to final and then set up the navigation for the approach.

Let’s say that after looking everything over & of course maintaining control of the aircraft (airspeed, heading/bank, altitude or pitch at all times) you find nothing that limits your options – just do the normal approach to a safe landing.

What if, all it was , was a high pressure air conditioning hose that burst? Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if we’d lost control and almost crashed because of a loud bang?

Remember rule #3 Don’t escalate an abnormal situation into an emergency.



RULE #1 Don’t takeoff with known problems.

Don’t takeoff with engine problems. Don’t release the brakes for takeoff until after you’ve checked the engine gauges at ~ 2/3 horsepower. Verify the oil pressure is in the normal range & steady, oil temperature is in the normal, range as well as the fuel flow & EGT.

At the same time you release the brakes go to takeoff power and at that setting ensure the manifold pressure, RPM and Fuel Flow are what they should be. (Piston powered aircraft.)


It shouldn’t be boring.

What do I mean by control? In flight it means having the airspeed, heading or bank, altitude or pitch where it should be or being able to put the aircraft in those configurations quickly. 

As an example – on short final is the airspeed slowing at a rate that will cause the airspeed to be where you want it as you enter the flare? Are the flaps configured they way you want them? Do the gear indicators indicate that the gear is down and locked? Are you ready for one or both brakes to malfunction or that one time may be flat? Did you check brake pressure while on final. Is the autopilot and yaw damper turned off?

Are you able to maintain a constant rate of climb/descent while maintaining a specific airspeed? Are you able to land within 200′ of desired landing spot?

If you are not in control of the aircraft – maybe you should sit in the back and let someone who can control the aircraft fly it.


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