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How to Handle an Emergency Airplane Landing Situation

Emergencies during flights aren’t something many of us want to think about, and dealing with an emergency landing can seem like a far-off dream. People may take several flights during their lifetime and never experience a problem. However, complacency can be dangerous.

Airline staff often separate emergencies into “planned” or “unplanned” situations. A planned emergency refers to a situation where the airline staff becomes aware of an issue that may threaten the rest of the flight, such as engine failure or a fire, and moves to land. Unplanned emergencies are sudden events which send the plane into emergency landing, such as catastrophic weather or terrorist attacks. In either case, it’s still important to know how to handle yourself in an emergency, both for passengers or for staff. If you are injured in an aviation accident and you suspect negligence airline staff was the cause, contact the airplane accident attorney team at Panish | Shea | Ravipudi LLP today!

Preparation Before the Emergency

Though it may seem pointless to prepare for an emergency that may never come, taking due steps for readiness can make a situation where an emergency does arise much easier.
Airlines take many steps to make passengers listen to the in-flight safety announcements, from cutting off audio on plane devices to play the announcements, to building intricate videos to catch passengers’ attention.

Despite these efforts, however, there is no legal requirement for staff to make a passenger pay attention—people listening to their own music through headphones instead of paying attention are responsible for their own lack of understanding. However, airline staff may take actions if a passenger is preventing others from listening to the announcement.

Passengers can also make sure all safety implements are in place before takeoff. Checking that the life jacket is where it’s supposed to be can prevent a crisis in an emergency water landing. Previous passengers may take the lifejackets as a sort of souvenir. On a plane that takes several flights per day, staff may not always notice if a lifejacket has gone missing.


In the event of an emergency landing, evacuation may be necessary. In some cases, the conditions outside the plane may be dangerous, such as when the engine has not yet stopped running or the plane has landed on stormy waters, and the staff may keep passengers inside the plane. In other cases, such as a fire inside the plane, evacuation may take place to keep passengers safe.

Proper operation of evacuation slides is critical. These safety features can inflate in less than ten seconds and carry a lot of force when they do so, creating dangerous conditions for anyone in their path.

In an evacuation, the airline staff has an obligation to keep all passengers safe. Staff may use force if necessary to get uncooperative passengers off the plane. Staff can also enter the flight deck to check on the pilots before evacuating themselves.

In water landings, passengers should put on extra clothes to improve the chances of survival in cold water and secure any loose objects that may float about if water enters the plane. Passengers should put on lifejackets, but not inflate them until exiting the plane. After all passengers and staff evacuate, the evacuation slides become rafts. Staff should attempt to link rafts together to appear more visible to potential rescuers.


The amount of technology and electronics included in an operating plane opens the opportunity for fires. Plane seats may catch on fire, and even on-board entertainment screens may emit smoke. For fires in the cabin that directly affect passengers, staff should take steps to contain the fire and inform passengers.

Passengers may never hear about minor fires that don’t directly affect passengers, such as those in the galley. Larger fires that affect the course of the flight, on the other hand, receive different treatment.

Counting how many seats there are between a passenger’s and the nearest exit is essential for dealing with fires, as smoke can impair vision and make it difficult to see the correct path.

Pilot Sickness

During some flights, a pilot may fall ill and no longer be in a state to fly the plane. If this occurs, staff may ask for assistance from off-duty pilots in the cabin. Most longer flights have several pilots on board to prevent such requests from becoming necessary.

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