So you’re flying around and everything is going great. But, unfortunately, it’s time to head back to the airport before you spend your life savings on the rented plane that’s costing $130 an hour…(a little aviation humor)

“Centennial Tower, Skyhawk 12345, over Chatfield Reservoir, inbound for full stop” and they respond with…………….they respond with…………hello? Respond with…………

Nothing! What now?

Well, in today’s technology driven society, there is one very obvious solution- get your cell phone out and call the tower.

What if you don’t have the control towers number? Shame on you! With cell phones being as prevalent as they are now days, you should make it a habit to store these phone numbers in your phone. However, if you don’t have the number, and even if you do have it and call them, there is still a procedure in place to get you to the ground safely.

Depending on the situation, troubleshoot as much as you can. You might be able to restore communications, as it could have been just a glitch.

  • Check the volume. Maybe it was low or all the way down.
  • Switch to the other Com. Maybe it’s just a problem with Com1 but Com2 is fine.
  • Try the hand held mic
  • Unplug the hand held and plug it back in
  • Unplug the hand held mic altogether as maybe there’s a short between it and the main communication rout.
  • Unplug your headset and move it over to the passenger side plug in
  • If you kill the master switch, will the engine stop? No. So try that maybe.

These are just a few of the options you have to troubleshoot. And depending on your situation, you may or may not have time to look into these options.

If the troubleshooting proves to fix nothing, or if you didn’t have time to troubleshoot, now what?

Step 1 – Squawk

Squawk 7600 on your transponder.

This is the first thing you do. It alerts the control tower that there is a communication problem with your aircraft.

Step 2 – Proceed to airport

This is where you have to be careful. You must remember that you may or may not be able to hear other aircraft in the area, and they obviously can’t hear you. This could create issues if your situational awareness level is down due to the stressful situation. Try and remain calm and keep an eye out for other aircraft in your vicinity. ALWAYS MAINTAIN SITUATIONAL AWARENESS!

Once you see the airport, ensure that you are 500 ft above pattern altitude. This helps get you out of the way until you are noticed by the tower.

When you are 500 ft above pattern altitude, start circling the airfield until you are noticed.

How do you know that you’ve been seen? Light gun signals.

Step 2- Light gun signals

You might be able to hear the control tower, even though they cannot hear you. If that is the case, then you won’t need to worry about watching for light gun signals. However, it is still necessary that you know them.


Notice that they have meanings for both in air, and on the ground. After landing, you still have to abide by the towers gun signals in order to taxi and park safely.

Step 3- After parking safely

There are a few different options here:

  1. Get out of the plane and kick the shit out of it. Possibly even use a baseball bat.
  2. Immediately go into the club and demand to know why they let you fly such a pile of shit. Unless it’s your plane, then you can’t blame them.
  3. Call the owner of the plane (if it isn’t yours) and tell them what a piece of junk they own.
  4. Lastly, any combination of the first 3, or all 3.

……….I’m kidding!! Don’t do any of that. Mechanical failures and malfunctions happen; it’s all part of the gig. It’s not ideal, but stuff happens from time to time.

Ensuring that you are up to par with emergency procedures can be the difference between life or death. In any emergency, the goal is to land safely with out serious injury or worse. Not only the goal for yourself, but also all living souls flying with you. You are the PIC, it is your job to know what to do in an emergency.

Happy flying!





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