Lost Procedures

Getting lost in flight is a potentially dangerous situation, especially when low on fuel. If a pilot becomes lost, there are some good common sense procedures to follow. If a town or city cannot be seen, the first thing to do is climb, being mindful of traffic and weather conditions. An increase in altitude increases radio and navigation reception range and also increases radar coverage. If flying near a town or city, it may be possible to read the name of the town on a water tower.If the aircraft has a navigational radio, such as a VOR or ADF receiver, it can be possible to determine position by plotting an azimuth from two or more navigational facilities. If GPS is installed, or a pilot has a portable aviation GPS on board, it can be used to determine the position and the location of the nearest airport. Communicate with any available facility using frequencies shown on the sectional chart. If contact is made with a controller, radar vectors may be offered. Other facilities may offer direction finding (DF) assistance. To use this procedure, the controller requests the pilot to hold down the transmit button for a few seconds and then release it. The controller may ask the pilot to change directions a few times and repeat the transmit procedure. This gives the controller enough information to plot the aircraft position and then give vectors to a suitable landing site. If the situation becomes threatening, transmit the situation on the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz and set the transponder to 7700. Most facilities, and even airliners, monitor the emergency frequency.

Flight Diversion

There may come a time when a pilot is not able to make it to the planned destination. This can be the result of unpredicted weather conditions, a system malfunction, or poor preflight planning. In any case, the pilot needs to be able to safely and efficiently divert to an alternate destination. Risk management procedures become a priority during any type of flight diversion and should be used the pilot. For example, the hazards of inadvertent VFR into IMC involve a risk that the pilot can identify and assess and then mitigate through a pre-planned or in-flight diversion around hazardous weather. Before any cross-country flight, check the charts for airports or suitable landing areas along or near the route of flight. Also, check for navigational aids that can be used during a diversion. Risk management is explained in greater detail in Aeronautical Decision-making section.

Computing course, time, speed, and distance information in flight requires the same computations used during preflight planning. However, because of the limited flight deck space and because attention must be divided between flying the aircraft, making calculations, and scanning for other aircraft, take advantage of all possible shortcuts and rule-of-thumb computations.When in flight, it is rarely practical to actually plot a course on a sectional chart and mark checkpoints and distances. Furthermore, because an alternate airport is usually not very far from your original course, actual plotting is seldom necessary.

The course to an alternate destination can be measured accurately with a protractor or plotter but can also be measured with reasonable accuracy using a straightedge and the compass rose depicted around VOR stations. This approximation can be made on the basis of a radial from a nearby VOR or an airway that closely parallels the course to your alternate destination. However, remember that the magnetic heading associated with a VOR radial or printed airway is outbound from the station. To find the course to the station, it may be necessary to determine the reciprocal of that heading. It is typically easier to navigate to an alternate airport that has a VOR or NDB facility on the field.

After selecting the most appropriate alternate destination, approximate the magnetic course to the alternate using a compass rose or airway on the sectional chart. If time permits, try to start the diversion over a prominent ground feature.

However, in an emergency, divert promptly toward your alternate destination. Attempting to complete all plotting, measuring, and computations involved before diverting to the alternate destination may only aggravate an actual emergency.

Once established on course, note the time, and then use the winds aloft nearest to your diversion point to calculate a heading and GS. Once a GS has been calculated, determine a new arrival time and fuel consumption. Give priority to flying the aircraft while dividing attention between navigation and planning. When determining an altitude to use while diverting, consider cloud heights, winds, terrain, and radio reception.