When things change during a flight and a pilot begins to reassess the wisdom of continuing the flight and whether or not to make a precautionary landing, there are a number of steps the pilot may want to consider.
Step 1. Commit to Land & LIVE
If your gut says land, listen! Then commit to a precautionary landing and do it.
Step 2. Assess Level of Urgency
If you are concerned but there is no imminent danger, your best choice may be to select the nearest (NRST) airport on your GPS and proceed to the nearest aviation facility.
Practice and become familiar with this procedure. Make sure your GPS is not set to filter out small or private airports or heliports. Reaching an airport, even a private-use one, is a better choice than landing off site, as long as the situation does not worsen.
But understand your situation can quickly become more urgent.
If there is real or perceived imminent danger in continuing flight, proceed to Step 3.
Step 3. Choose Spot to Land
Most of the time, a helicopter pilot who needs to land as soon as practicable has a number of options available. Use these priorities when selecting a landing area:
- Safety of approach and landing
- Survival of persons on board once on the ground (don’t assume you will have the ability to take off again)
- Safety of persons on the ground
- Ground accessibility for aircraft repairs and personnel egress and ingress
Step 4. Land & LIVE
An off-site precautionary landing will involve varying degrees of additional stress beyond those of a normal landing at the intended landing site. Remember to do the following:
- Alert air traffic control or your company of your intent, if possible. Remember that cell or text service may not be available in the landing area.
- Slow down and steepen the approach.
- Be aware that engine cooldowns are NOT a limitation. If you land with people around, shut down IMMEDIATELY.
- You have exercised good judgment. Stand by your decision.