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As Easy As A-B-C

By Susan Parsons
Reprinted with permission from FAA Safety Briefing

Emergency approaches were one of the hardest areas to master when I was learning to fly. I struggled to remember what to do first, fumbled around the sky looking for the best field, and constantly lost my place on the emergency checklist.

I eventually came across a simple ABC checklist for emergencies, which calls for an immediate focus on the most important tasks. Over the years, I added a few letters and developed the concept into a detailed outline for ground and flight training. It works. Even the most flustered flier can instantly recall the alphabet. The checklist is structured to stimulate recall of the right tasks in the right sequence.

Airspeed. Memorize best glide speed and try not to lose any altitude until reaching that speed. Once there, trim the aircraft for hands-off glide.

Best field. Note wind direction and strength, then current position. Are you directly over a suitable field now? Is there a suitable field at downwind position? Is there a suitable field at base or final position? Also, note present altitude relative to traffic pattern altitude, or 800 to 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL). Are you too high or too low? How can you fix it—flaps, extend, slips, S-turns?

Checklist. Start with a flow pattern across the panel. If altitude and circumstances permit, review the written restart checklist. Under all circumstances, it’s more important to fly the airplane than to check the list.

Declare an emergency. Note current position and then tune the radio to 121.5 MHz, which should already be in the standby position. When making the mayday call, state who (tail number), what, where, and how many aboard. Set the transponder to 7700.

Exit preparation. Prepare the passengers for the landing. Ensure seatbelts are tightened, then brief passengers on exit procedures and assignments. Make sure the first aid/survival equipment is in a convenient place and prepare the aircraft, for example, cracking open doors, if the Pilot’s Operating Handbook/Aircraft Flight Manual so directs.

Fire prevention. Shut the fuel off, along with the three Ms: mixture, mags, and master. Ensure the fire extinguisher is close at hand.

Ground plan. Touch down at the slowest possible airspeed, and then evacuate the aircraft. Account for everyone and use the first aid/survival equipment as needed.