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Emergency Declared: Practice Pays Off

I like to think of myself as a “Safety Practitioner” and not a “Safety Expert.”  On occasion I get a call from someone who was referred to me by a client and they will say, “I was told that you are a safety expert and can help me.”  When this happens a little voice whispers in my ear, “Remember the old saying, ‘an expert is a drip under pressure.’”  A few days ago (from this writing), I became a “Safety Expert” for about 4 minutes when I lost power in my Cessna 182 airplane.

My wife and I were conducting an Angel Flight from Tulsa, OK to Arlington, TX.  We dropped our patient off at Arlington, had lunch and headed back home.  About 20 minutes into the flight we settled in level about 2800 feet above the ground.  We remained at this lower altitude to avoid clouds because of the cold temperature and possible icing.  About a minute or so before the event, I pointed to the Denton, TX airport and commented that I could land there if needed.  A minute later I needed to land.

“Dallas Regional, …I am declaring an emergency.”

“State the nature of your emergency.”

“Having engine trouble and need to land.”

“Denton Airport at eight o’clock; how many souls on board?”

“Two souls on board, CTAF for Denton?”

“Denton is towered, 118.6.”

“Switching to Denton tower.   …Denton tower …inbound for emergency landing.”

“You are cleared to land, wind 340 at 22 knots gusts 29.”

We were on the ground in about 4 minutes from the first indication of engine failure without bending any metal…or any personal injury.  Now I know what the saying means, “An expert is a drip under pressure.”

As a pilot and flight instructor I get a lot of safety practice in mitigating the hazards that come with flying an airplane.  As a safety expert I teach others how to mitigate hazards and why it is so important.  Being a Safety Practitioner when flying paid off. It really doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, practicing safety will prepare you for what could happen.

In the situation I just told you about, we felt blessed to be close to a nice size airport.  If I’d had to land off-airport the outcome might have been different, but we practice for that too.  When I am flying along I practice looking for a place to land.  When I began flying cross country to clients I asked my wife to occasionally surprise me by asking, “You just lost your engine, what do you do now?”  When the real emergency was gone and we landed at Denton my wife told me that she was proud of me because I did what we practiced.  She even told me she’d fly with me again.


In my speeches, seminar, and workshop I use some aviation examples to make my point about taking responsibility for safety.  When it is all said and done, you need to be a safety practitioner to prevent injuries.  Your attitude towards safety is critical to a successful outcome when you are in a situation where you are the “Safety Expert.”

14 Responses to Emergency Declared: Practice Pays Off

  • Keith Ballow says:


    Glad to hear you and Deb are both able to share this story with us.
    Having a game plan and practicing it before hand is great insurance against the day when the “What’s the worst thing that could happen” happens!
    Hope 2014 is a great year for you guys.


  • Tim Smith Wolf Creek Nuclear says:

    Glad I heard about this from you!
    Hopefully you did not run out of gas….

  • Well Done………Carl.


  • Bob Morgan says:


    enjoyed the article very much. Thanks for mentioning it. Safe flying!!

  • Larry Shields says:

    I know the feeling Carl. Glad to hear things turned out OK. I am pilot also and we met in Kansas few years back. Friend of mine had same thing happen to himself and his wife one year ago in the same type aircraft for the same reason . worse for them they just came across large body of water . landed safely at nearby large airport. I have had engine trouble but thankfuly it kept running long enough to land. We called it Taking Giant steps as you were flying and keep in mind where you could land if engine quit.We take risks everyday and you hit it on the head” BE prepared”

    • admin says:

      Good to hear that yours came out well too. As you know, “Fly the Plane” takes on a whole new meaning. As a CFII when I am conducting a flight review I spend more time than my students want on engine out and dead stick landings. Usually they tell me that they are glad we did afterward. I also had a wife tell me how much she appreciated the time we took.
      THis morning I am speaking to coal mine leadership in Grand Junction and will share my story to drive the concept of Plan, Train, and Maintain.

      Fly Safe,

  • Glad you and Deb are ok. Thanks for sharing your story with all of us. When safety is made personal, you tend to grab the attention of the people around you.
    Be Safe

  • Dennis HENRY says:

    Glad to hear you and deb are ok. i am not surprised that you were “practicing what you preach”

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