In an emergency, the PIC may take any action deemed necessary. The PIC may deviate from prescribed procedures, manuals, weather minimums, regulations, and Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearances to the extent required in the interest of safety. If a crewmember other than the PIC first becomes aware of an emergency, e.g., a Flight Attendant in the cabin, immediate action will be taken to safeguard the flight. As soon as practical, the crewmember will notify the PIC of the emergency and the action taken.
If the PIC is incapacitated or unavailable for any reason, command of the crewmembers will be assumed by another crewmember in the following sequence:
- Extra Pilot
- Flight Attendant
Recognizing an abnormal situation
An abnormal procedure is an event related to the operation of an airplane that creates a hazard or potential hazard to the passenger, the crew, or the aircraft. During abnormal events, the primary objective is to safeguard the passengers and crew. The secondary objective is to preserve the aircraft and the cargo. Generally, the earlier an abnormal event is recognized and dealt with, the lesser the hazard that exists. Nearly all abnormal procedures are dealt with more easily when they are recognized early. Flight Attendants are encouraged to report promptly any unusual sound, smell, appearance, or vibration of the airplane. Such reports are essential in dealing effectively with a potential or actual abnormal event. Should such a report concern an item that proves to be of little or no consequence, the Flight Crew should, nonetheless, give a full and considerate explanation to the Flight Attendant making the report.
Effective action and communication during an emergency or abnormal situation depend on the crewmembers functioning as a team. It is important to establish communications without delay between the flight and cabin crewmembers. If communications are not established, or if communications are misleading or ineffective, Flight Attendants and/or passengers, without a sense of direction, are left to draw their own conclusions and the situation can deteriorate rapidly.
If possible, the Purser should be informed of an emergency or irregularity by the Flight Crew before an announcement is made to the passengers. This should be done either in person (the PIC would call the Purser to the flight deck) or by use of the interphone system if time is not available for an in-person briefing.
After briefing the Purser, the PIC, or Purser if PIC requests, will make a brief announcement over the PA, ensuring passengers that someone is in command or the situation and providing direction.
If the Flight Crew is unable to brief the Purser or to make emergency announcements, the Purser will assess the situation and make the appropriate emergency announcements to prepare the cabin for an emergency landing or evacuation. The Purser will make every effort to communicate with the Flight Crew before making emergency announcements or decisions.
Always ask for clarification if you are uncertain about any instruction or communication from the flight crew.
Notification to flight crew
If a Flight Attendant becomes aware of an emergency or abnormal situation in the cabin, s/he will take immediate action to safeguard the flight. As soon as practical, the Purser will notify the PIC of the event and the action taken.
Flight Attendants will notify the Flight Crew in person or through the interphone system.
Crews are encouraged to conduct a debriefing after an abnormal situation. A debriefing must be conducted post declaration of an emergency by the Director of Safety as soon as possible. It should include:
- What was the situation?
- Who handled it and how?
- Was the written procedure in the manual followed? Was it effective?
- Should something have been done differently? Who needs to know this?
- Was teamwork involved? If not, should there have been?
- What needs to go into the written report?
- Were passengers involved?
- Were there any injuries to people or any aircraft damage?