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In-flight emergency procedures save lives, property

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (7/23/10) -- BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (7/23/10) - Throughout the history of military aviation, in-flight emergencies (IFEs) have always occurred and the military has gone to great length to develop procedures and train their pilots to quickly recover from them. Despite all the procedures put in to place, IFEs still occur and are routinely dealt with correctly - and without hesitation.

"In-flight emergencies are bound to happen, but our pilots are put through rigorous training to make sure they are ready to deal with any situation," said Lt. Col. Craig Wolf, chief of standards and evaluations for the 120th Fighter Squadron.

There are several types of emergencies. A minor emergency could be anything from a burned out light in the console to indicate landing gear position, to major emergencies, in which vital systems are degraded and the pilot must land the airplane as soon as possible.

To aid pilots in resolving their emergencies as quickly as possible, a checklist shows them exactly how to mitigate the IFE. To further assist a pilot, his wingman or on-the-ground supervisor guides him through the checklist to ensure nothing is overlooked.

When an IFE occurs, the air traffic controllers direct all aircraft in the pilot's vicinity to stay clear so the pilot can focus on correcting the malfunction, said Wolf.

To maintain their proficiency, pilots undergo three evaluations every 18 months. Evaluations include two written tests and simulator training, in which they are evaluated on the practical application of their textbook training.

Even though pilots have extensive training and evaluations, they also have to rely on their experience when dealing with IFEs. As such, a pilot is always aware of his location in relation to unpopulated areas - and the closest runway.

In-flight emergencies will continue to occur, but with proper training, reference guides and logic, an aircraft will be brought down as safely and efficiently as possible.