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Emergency Services Available to Pilots

Section 2. Emergency Services Available to Pilots

6−2−1. Radar Service for VFR Aircraft in


a. Radar equipped ATC facilities can provide

radar assistance and navigation service (vectors) to

VFR aircraft in difficulty when the pilot can talk with

the controller, and the aircraft is within radar

coverage. Pilots should clearly understand that

authorization to proceed in accordance with such

radar navigational assistance does not constitute

authorization for the pilot to violate CFRs. In effect,

assistance is provided on the basis that navigational

guidance information is advisory in nature, and the

responsibility for flying the aircraft safely remains

with the pilot.

b. Experience has shown that many pilots who are

not qualified for instrument flight cannot maintain

control of their aircraft when they encounter clouds

or other reduced visibility conditions. In many cases,

the controller will not know whether flight into

instrument conditions will result from ATC instruc-

tions. To avoid possible hazards resulting from being

vectored into IFR conditions, a pilot in difficulty

should keep the controller advised of the current

weather conditions being encountered and the

weather along the course ahead and observe the


1. If a course of action is available which will

permit flight and a safe landing in VFR weather

conditions, noninstrument rated pilots should choose

the VFR condition rather than requesting a vector or

approach that will take them into IFR weather

conditions; or

2. If continued flight in VFR conditions is not

possible, the noninstrument rated pilot should so

advise the controller and indicating the lack of an

instrument rating, declare a distress condition; or

3. If the pilot is instrument rated and current, and

the aircraft is instrument equipped, the pilot should so

indicate by requesting an IFR flight clearance.

Assistance will then be provided on the basis that the

aircraft can operate safely in IFR weather conditions.

6−2−2. Transponder Emergency Operation

a. When a distress  or  urgency condition is

encountered, the pilot of an aircraft with a coded radar

beacon transponder, who desires to alert a ground

radar facility, should squawk Mode 3/A,

Code 7700/Emergency and Mode C altitude report-

ing and then immediately establish communications

with the ATC facility.

b. Radar facilities are equipped so that Code 7700

normally triggers an alarm or special indicator at all

control positions. Pilots should understand that they

might not be within a radar coverage area. Therefore,

they should continue squawking Code 7700 and

establish radio communications as soon as possible.

6−2−3. Intercept and Escort

a. The concept of airborne intercept and escort is

based on the Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft

establishing visual and/or electronic contact with an

aircraft in difficulty, providing in-flight assistance,

and escorting it to a safe landing. If bailout, crash

landing or ditching becomes necessary, SAR

operations can be conducted without delay. For most

incidents, particularly those occurring at night and/or

during instrument flight conditions, the availability

of intercept and escort services will depend on the

proximity of SAR units with suitable aircraft on alert

for immediate dispatch. In limited circumstances,

other aircraft flying in the vicinity of an aircraft in

difficulty can provide these services.

b. If specifically requested by a pilot in difficulty

or if a distress condition is declared, SAR

coordinators will take steps to intercept and escort an

aircraft. Steps may be initiated for intercept and

escort if an urgency condition is declared and unusual

circumstances make such action advisable.

c. It is the pilot’s prerogative to refuse intercept

and escort services. Escort services will normally be

provided to the nearest adequate airport. Should the

pilot receiving escort services continue onto another

location after reaching a safe airport, or decide not to

divert to the nearest safe airport, the escort aircraft is

not obligated to continue and further escort is