I’m declaring an emergency” is a phrase that every pilot has nightmares about.  It is also a phrase that all pilots should practice.  Yes, I said practice.  In our primary training, the subject of actually declaring an emergency is typically brushed over as a sidebar conversation.  The only thing we really train for per the ACS are simulated engine failures.  Complete engine failures are actually very rare.  Most of the accident reports I have studied involve factors not at all related to the engine.  Take a look at the following videos, none of which were Engine Failures in Flight.  They were, however, major problems that could have had a substantially different outcome.  
We are taught in nearly all phases of our pilot training that we need to constantly “stay ahead of the airplane.”  While we typically understand the basic premise of staying ahead of the airplane, we rarely talk about what to do if we get so far behind the airplane that we not only lose situational awareness, we lose all but a very basic ability to fly the airplane.  While these incidents certainly had other factors involved, it should be noted that all of them involved the pilots getting in over their heads (aka Getting Behind the Airplane).

I remember my first flight as an airline pilot.  I flew from LAX to PHX, a mere 1 hour flight.  But for this 1 hour flight, I was doing 250kts until I cleared 10,000′, then I was doing 350+kts over the ground.  I had to work the autopilot, program the FMS, load the approach, brief the approach, fly the approach, and somehow attempt to land an airplane I’ve been in, well, never.  When we landed in PHX, I remember thinking to myself that I was still at the gate in LA and HOW DID I GET HERE?!.  Yes, I was that far behind the airplane.  Luckily for me, I was in a crewed environment with a highly-experienced check airman that helped me and our passengers get to PHX safely.  In GA, we are rarely that lucky to have a full crew helping us every step of the way.  We experience real pressure from our passengers that don’t know the difference between a METAR and a meatball.

Every pilot has limitations, whether they want to admit them or not.  It is human nature not to admit mistakes or fault and pilots seem to be stereotypical examples of this behavior.  We always want to seem in control, always cool, always “Yeagered.”  The reality is that for the most part, we are.  However, we also need to realize that most of our passengers are unknowing, unassuming and completely trusting of you and your skill set.  Once you have exceeded your skill set, it’s time to call Uncle.

I’ve declared an emergency three times in 26 years of flying.  I’ve written or provided a report ZERO times.  Never once has anyone asked me to report anything once we landed, including an emergency with a commercial aircraft in which multiple aircraft were moved out of our way so we could get back on the ground.  I declared an emergency during a partial engine failure before I had any idea what was going on.  I knew instinctively that even if this problem turned out to be pilot error (it wasn’t), airspace would be cleared, runways would be vacated, and I would be the center of attention.

There seems to be a stigma associated with declaring an emergency.  Like landing with a gear in the up position.  I’ll let you in on a secret; it isn’t.  Here’s a quick cheat sheet on when to declare an emergency.

Suspected Carbon monoxide poisoning? – Declare an emergency
Lose ANY instrumentation in IMC? – Declare an emergency
Engine running rough?  – Declare an emergency
Gear problem? – Declare an emergency
Lost? – Declare an emergency
Overwhelmed by some situation? – Declare an emergency

Where do you find information about emergencies in the regulations?  It is in the very beginning.  FAR 91.3 deals with the Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.  91.3 is the second regulation in Part 91.  The only regulation before it just states what Part 91 actually is.  Yes, the FAA even wants you to remember your emergency authority.  So much so that it is first and foremost in a Part of the regulations that includes over 1,500 sections.  

The next time you find yourself so overwhelmed that the safe outcome of your flight is in question, I would consider it a personal favor if you declared an emergency.  And if you are required to submit a report, I’ll buy you an adult beverage of your choice. 

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Plus One Flyers - Membership Agreement

Section A:  Agreement

I hereby certify that all the information on this membership form is true to the best of my knowledge.  I understand that any falsification shall be grounds for disqualification or forfeiture of my membership.  I have received, read, understand, and agree to abide by the Plus One Flyers, Inc. (the “Club”) Bylaws and Operational Rules.  In particular, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to be bound by Section 4.8 of the Bylaws, which states that I shall be responsible for any damages or abuse to an aircraft that I am using.  I also acknowledge that I have read and agree to be bound by Section 4.8.3 of the Bylaws, which provides that I shall not seek to hold Plus One Flyers, Inc. legally responsible for my acts while operating a Club aircraft which results in damages or injuries, whether to myself or others. I further acknowledge that I have read and agree to be bound by Article VII of the Bylaws, which provides that I shall be fiscally responsible for my dues, timely flight payments and any collection fees.

In the event that any damages are assessed against the Club as a result of my acts or negligence, I shall be solely responsible for the payment of those damages and for any legal fees or costs incurred by the Club in defending itself.  As set forth by Article VII in the Plus One Flyers Inc. Bylaws, each member, and their heirs, successors, personal representative and assigns, release, acquit, and covenant not to sue, and  shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Club, its officers, directors, agents and employees for any liability, losses, or damages that I or the Club may suffer as a result of an act by, or negligence of, the member while operating a Club aircraft. Each member must acknowledge and agree that he or she is accepting and using any and all Club aircraft in a used, “as is” condition and that the Club does not and has not repaired, reconditioned, or maintained any Club aircraft.  Each member must agree to assume all risks, and assumes full responsibility for risk of bodily injury, death or property damage associated with any Club aircraft and not to seek to hold the Club legally responsible for any such defects in Club aircraft before being allowed to use and fly Club aircraft.

Finally, I understand, should I resign from the Club, my resignation notice (form) must be given in writing at least thirty (30) days prior to leaving the Club and that I will return my club key(s) on or before my resignation date, which is effective the 1st day of the next month following that 30 day period. Membership remains effective until terminated under the terms of this Agreement.

I also agree and understand that:

A.     I will not allow non-members, whether pilots or not, to operate Plus One Flyers Aircraft because they are not insured through Plus One Flyers.  All flight instructors instructing in Club Aircraft must be members of Plus One Flyers, Inc., and be authorized by the club’s Safety Program.

B.     I will not operate Club Aircraft if my FAA medical or Flight Review is not current.

C.     I will not operate Club Aircraft for hire, either under Part 91 or Part 135 of the FAR’s, because the Club’s insurance does not cover such operations.

D.     I, alone, am personally and financially responsible if I participate in any uninsured operations of Club Aircraft.

E.     I will maintain and promptly notify the Club of any changes to my telephone numbers, billing address, email, and credit/debit card(s) information by updating this information myself in Schedule Master.          Initial here_________

F.     I will promptly notify Plus One Flyers if I am involved in an aircraft accident, even if it is not a Plus One Flyers Aircraft.

G.     I authorize my bank or credit/debit card company/companies to make monthly or yearly (as specified in Section B) payments to Plus One Flyers, Inc. and post it to my account.                               

H.     I authorize my bank or credit/debit card company/companies to make payments for possible collections for errors or non-payments of flights to Plus One Flyers, Inc. and post it to my account.

I will promptly and regularly submit updated copies of my Medical Certificate and Flight Review to the Club’s Membership Officer.


Section B:  Automatic Payment and Credit/Debit Card(s) Guarantee

The credit/debit card(s) you provide on this form and/or in Schedule Master serve as your payment guarantee and is required in your Schedule Master Membership account to enable and maintain your airplane scheduling privileges. Plus One Flyers will charge your card(s) and email you an invoice for any payment shortages.  Any dispute regarding a charge can be handled by the Club Membership Officer.  If an error results in an amount owed you, Plus One Flyers will credit your Schedule Master account balance unless you request a refund check.

Membership Dues are $29.00 monthly, charged to your credit/debit card(s) or if available, against a pre-paid credit balance.  Paying Annual Dues means you maintain a pre-paid credit balance that is reduced by $31.00 monthly until zero and if you elect to continue to pay Annual dues, you are responsible for pre-paying the appropriate amount each year.  There is a $129.50 initiation fee for new members and renewing members, except for those members renewing while serving active duty in U.S. Armed Services.  If there is a change in dues you will receive a thirty day notice by email and a message will be posted in Schedule Master. Your account will be charged on the 1st of every month if you choose the monthly option.  An email invoice will be sent to you every month.  It is your responsibility to view your invoices/account to verify that your payment has been made.  You are responsible for ensuring your card(s) remains current and that if it expires or your billing address changes you alone are responsible for updating that information in Schedule Master.  If your bill has not been paid your scheduling privileges will be automatically suspended until it is paid.  If three consecutive dues invoices remain unpaid your membership will automatically terminate and a $99.00 initiation fee plus the past due balance will be required to reinstate your membership.  If you take no action your account may be sent to a collection agency.

Keep your billing address and email address and card(s) current in your Schedule Master Membership Account. Plus One Flyers is not responsible for ensuring your email system allows Schedule Master or other Club emails to reach you.  You will receive an automatic email one month prior to the expiration of your card in Schedule Master.  Plus One Flyers is a PCI-DSS-compliant e-commerce and POS credit card processing merchant.  See the Club’s Privacy Policy for more about how we protect your private information.                                                                                              

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