At our Arizona aviation accident law firm, we most commonly deal with two kinds of cases—injuries and death from aircraft crashes, and enforcement action cases. Today, we would like to take a moment to share some thoughts with our Arizona pilots in light of a recent accident.

On Friday, September 5, a Socata TBM 900 crashed into the ocean off the coast of Jamaica around 2:15 in the afternoon. The plane, a small turbo-prop owned by Buckingham Properties in Rochester, NY, was piloted by Larry Glazer. Glazer was a licensed and experienced pilot and aviation enthusiast, and was known throughout the Rochester community as a brilliant and optimistic real estate developer, whose latest goals included a vision for the city’s deserted midtown area.

Early reports on the crash show a scene eerily similar to the 1999 crash of a Learjet that killed golfer Payne Stewart. Nearly every new pilot in the skies today was introduced to hypoxia by learning about the Stewart incident, in which the jet departed from Orlando, suffered a rapid decompression, and flew until fuel was depleted near Aberdeen, SD.

Larry and his wife, Jane, departed from Rochester Friday morning and were expected to land in Naples, FL just before noon. Instead, when the aircraft was over North Carolina, Mr. Glazer informed air traffic control that he would like to descend to FL180 because he had an incorrect indication. Controllers told him to stand by and proceed to FL250; Mr. Glazer remained unclear in his transmissions, and after approximately four minutes, controllers cleared him to FL200. Shortly after, communication with the plane was lost and the plane flew on for four hours. Larry Glazer never declared an emergency.

While every pilot wants to keep their aircraft, their occupants, and themselves safe, many pilots—especially less experienced pilots—hesitate to declare an emergency. Many airmen worry that unless it turns out to be a very serious emergency, they will face some kind of enforcement action from the FAA.

If you suspect that there is something wrong with your aircraft or your safety and time is of the essence, declare an emergency. If you need to deviate from control instructions to keep you and your aircraft safe, do what you need to do and keep ATC advised as your workload allows. The FAA will investigate the incident, but the most you are likely to hear from them is a phone call with a few questions.

Do not let the fear of a possible deviation prohibit you from doing what is necessary to stay safe—as pilot-in-command, you have ultimate emergency authority, and FAR 91.3 serves solely to support your authority. If you have any questions about an investigation into a recent emergency deviation, feel free to call us today at 602-258-1000.

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