Although I have titled this as Emergencies, the industry has not used that terminology for decades. Pilots have a non-normal checklist procedure if there is a malfunction of a system on the aircraft.

From the start of a pilot’s career the idea of flying a plane according to the laid down procedures is emphasised, it is, after all the safest way to fly a plane. The checklists and procedures are the result of all the operators’ experiences on that plane, collected and promulgated by the manufacturer.

The most testing time for a pilot is when multiple failures occur,  The question that I am most frequently asked on this subject is: Can a plane take off if an engine stops?


Clearly, it would be a crazy design if a plane couldn’t do that. From my pilot’s point of view, I think about taking off, with safety in mind. I ask myself … what is the safest thing to do if something happens during the takeoff?
These procedures should reassure you. A fear of flying feeds on ignorance so the more you can learn about flying, the safer you will feel.
How to deal with a non-normal situation… if you have a fear of flying. Leave it to the pilots and do as the Crew instructs you.


Everything that pilots do is governed by checklists.

Preparing the cockpit before the flight. Before starting the engines. After starting the engines. Taxi-ing. Taking off. Climbing, cruising, descending and so on.

Non-normal situations (the things you call emergencies) are exactly the same. We get a warning that indicates something like ‘Left Generator Failure’  and we read and execute the ‘Left Engine Generator Failed Checklist’. Routine, part of the operating procedures and well rehearsed.

My checklist is to:

  • Cancel the warning.
  • Fly the plane.
  • Navigate the plane
  • Communicate to ATC


For example, here’s what we do in the case of a  Rejected Take Off  (RTO).

  • Close Thrust Levers
  • Apply Maximum Braking
  • Apply Reverse Thrust
  • Check Speedbrake is deployed
  • Check wind direction and position aircraft accordingly


Most people would consider that some sort of problem during takeoff is the most difficult for pilots to deal with. In fact, like all other procedures, it is remarkably routine. Common sense suggests that the best course of action would always be to stay on the ground but the fact is that this isn’t what we always do. After passing the decision speed the aircraft will be taken into the air. Although this seems counter-intuitive to fearful flyers it is the correct course of action. 

Given the choice, all fearful flyers would take the option of staying on the runway, but it’s important to remember that the people least suited to give advice on emergencies are the people who are frightened of flying, so please trust our judgment. 

Procedures for the pilot are simplified into actions that may not be performed until the wheels are up and then are;

  • Prioritized by importance. 
  • Actioned from memory and subsequently confirmed by checklists.
  • Actioned only by reference to checklists.

Your checklist is to:

  • Always read the safety pamphlet regardless of how many times you fly.
  • Listen to the cabin crew briefing before departure.
  • Check, and mentally rehearse your evacuation route.
  • Have a plan for dealing with your children.

Best wishes,

Captain Keith

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