Aircraft Emergencies: When Something Goes Wrong


Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, was closed for a brief time on May 24 when a British Airways flight made an emergency landing due to engine panels that unlatched during takeoff. In the spring, another pilot led his plane to an emergency landing after learning of possible faulty landing gear. In 1998, an Aloha Airlines flight experienced decompression mid-flight and had to make an emergency landing. And, few of us can forget the emergency landing a few years back when a pilot was forced to land on the Hudson River. Travelers commute by aircraft by the hundreds of thousands each year, and we put our lives in the hands of pilots and technicians who ensure that the craft is safe for flying. But what happens when something is missed or overlooked, such as the case of engine panels that came unlatched during the British Airways flight?

Emergency landings can be planned, unplanned, forced or precautionary. The British Airways flight is fortunate that the pilot was able to make a safe landing, although three people were treated for minor injuries and 75 passengers were evacuated. Investigations will ensue as with any aviation accident, although many reports in this incident and others before tend to lead to pilot oversight, maintenance laziness and crew exhaustion. Pilot and maintenance workers use extensive checklists that must be implemented to ensure the safety of the flight, and this checklist covers all conditions and air parts from A to Z. To make it even easier to check and double-check, these checklists are now implemented through an iPad or tablet, and the data is recorded for tracking and retention.

The type of incident that happened in Britain is a very small percentage when it comes to elements that are overlooked during a aircraft check or take-off. But, it does happen. If you are involved in an emergency landing, what should you do?

  • Even if you fly frequently, take a few minutes to pay attention to the in-flight safety features, videos or demonstrations by the attendants. All planes are different, and all conditions may pose situational scenarios for emergency landings.
  • Find out where the exits are—before something happens.
  • Keep your seat belts fastened except to stretch or use the facilities.
  • Listen to all instructions if there is a fire, explosion or disaster on board. The crew is prepared to handle in-flight and in-air emergencies—likely better than you are.
  • The oxygen mask will be your friend. Take care of yourself first and others second.
  • Above all, do not panic.

It’s never on a pilot’s agenda to make an emergency landing, but an emergency landing as a precaution is better than an in-flight fatality. If you have been injured as part of an emergency landing, dealing with aviation agencies are time-consuming and difficult. Seek the advice of your New York attorney who can help you take the right measures to settle your case.