Choosing to Land

SuperUser Account First Responders

A helicopter has just landed unexpectedly in a local or ball field. The pilot says it wasn’t an emergency yet — but she had some safety concerns.

As a first responder, you might be surprised by the sudden appearance of an aircraft in your town. Do pilots have the right to land if they believe their ability to continue the flight safely is compromised?

Well, yes. According to U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations, “The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority [emphasis added] as to the operation of that aircraft” [14 CFR 91.3a].

The practice of aviation can be unforgiving. Mechanical failures can cause crashes — and there are a host of other causes too. Flying in poor visibility can reduce a pilot’s life expectancy to a matter of seconds. An unexpected detour or a strong headwind can burn fuel more quickly than expected. Or perhaps someone on board has fallen ill.

Under any of these circumstances, making a precautionary landing is the right, safe, and professional thing to do. When facing deteriorating conditions and choosing to land, the pilot is stopping the accident chain before the emergency. He or she is living up to their most important responsibility: the safety of their passengers, aircraft, and people on the ground.

As a first responder, you too have a role in public safety. Learn how you can help at the scene of a precautionary landing.

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