There’s no way to be totally prepared for every emergency, but there are ways to significantly improve your odds of surviving one. Preparation predicts performance when the real thing happens. A NASA study of airline crew performance found that 85 percent of “textbook” emergencies (those that the crews had trained for) were handled well, while only 7 percent of “new” emergency situations were handled with the same degree of success.
Many emergencies are avoidable simply because they’re set in motion by the pilot. Flight into icing conditions. Thunderstorm encounters. Fuel exhaustion. Manage risks wisely and practice good aeronautical decision making: You’ll be less likely to have an emergency and more able to cope with one.
Brief every flight to cover emergency contingencies and critical checklist items. Commit immediate procedures to memory.
Route selection. Are you flying over water, high terrain, or a forest? Have a plan for an unplanned off-airport landing.
Practice engine-out and partial panel scenarios with a qualified flight instructor.
Equip for redundancy and carry backup radios/GPS equipment, and batteries.
Pack a survival kit and rations.
File and activate a flight plan for search and rescue protection.
Assess the situation: What’s wrong? How critical is it? How much time do you have?
Prepare to land. Fly the aircraft, stay calm and in control, and land as soon as possible.
In IMC, try to reach VFR conditions.
Declare an emergency and advise ATC of the nature of the emergency. There is no penalty for doing this.
Maximize the glide with good airspeed control. Get close to the best glide speed and trim for that airspeed to help you manage the descent.
Stay with the aircraft if possible to improve your chances of being found.