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6 Times You Should Declare An Emergency With ATC

ATC has the ability to dedicate the most time and resources to you once you've declared an emergency. Don't delay, especially in these 6 situations.

1) If you've had major systems failure.

Any major systems experiencing malfunctions or failures could be reason enough to declare an emergency. Major systems that should catch your attention include: avionics, flight controls, powerplant, fuel, electrical, oil, and hydraulics.


2) You're having pressurization issues.

In many cases, you need to start descending right away. Declaring an emergency is you best way to get down quickly, and ATC can move other traffic out of your way as you get down to a safe altitude.

3) A passenger or crew member falls severely sick.

If a passenger or crew member falls severely ill, it could be time to declare a medical emergency. Use ATC's help to find the nearest suitable airport, and get to medical services as quickly as possible.

Swayne Martin

4) You're running low on fuel.

No one wants to admit they're running low on fuel, but it could be the most important radio call you ever make. ATC will prioritize your emergency, and get you on the ground as quickly as possible.

Corey Comarek

5) Smoke, fire, or burning smells.

If you have any indication that there might be a fire somewhere onboard, declare an emergency and land as soon as possible.

Swayne Martin

6) Any time you have a situation that adversely affects safety of flight.

Don't hesitate to declare an emergency with ATC. It's their job to help you get the assistance you need, so that you can get on the ground quickly.

If something is really going wrong, and the thought of declaring an emergency runs through your head, listen to the voice inside you. Declare an emergency and get the help you need.


Have you ever declared an emergency? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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