In Emergencies, Can Pilots Deviate from FAA Rules?

August 4, 2014

General operating and flight rules are established in part 91 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aeronautics and space regulations. Subsection three gives the responsibility and the authority of a pilot to command their aircraft.

Additionally, the section says that if there is an in-flight emergency that requires immediate action, “the pilot may deviate from any rule…to meet that emergency.” In other words, the FAA grants the pilots the authority to make decisions in an emergency that may not follow the regulations.

Unfortunately, a pilot had to make a dangerous landing on Caspersen beach, because the plane malfunctioned and could not fly back to the airport on July 27.

According to the Herald-Tribune, 36-year-old Ommy Irizarry and his 9-year-old daughter were beachcombing when the 1972 Piper Cherokee was making its emergency landing. The plane struck and killed the father and seriously injured the daughter.

One witness suspected that the plane crashed due to engine failure, but the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office did not confirm the cause. At the time of this reporting, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was on its way to the crash site.

How Does the NTSB Investigate Thousands of Accidents in a Year?

With only 400 employees, it is amazing that the NTSB is able to investigate in a year over 2,000 aviation accidents and about 500 rail, highway, marine and pipeline accidents. However, the NTSB is not the only group that will investigate a crash.

The NTSB will designate other organizations or companies to be parties to its investigation. For example, in this story of the Piper Cherokee aircraft crash, the NTSB might designate the engine manufacturer to conduct an investigation to see if there was a problem with the engine. The manufacturer will be responsible for reporting back any findings to the NTSB.


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