"Nearest suitable airport"

sopdan

Well-Known Member
After reading the first page of the interview q's thread (didn't feel like reading seven pages of nav light opinions), I thought I'd start a thread on something more important . What do you consider to be the "nearest suitable airport?"

This is what my POM says... (emphasis added)

In Flight Airport Suitability
For in flight purposes, a legal suitable airport is one where a safe
landing can be made. When determining airport suitability, consider
the following: actual and forecast weather, location of airport in
reference to terrain, available NAVAIDs and approaches, approach
minimums, length of runway(s), NOTAMs, emergency equipment,
and passenger handling facilities. At the beginning of descent, the
nearest airport in point of time is usually the destination airport, even if a suitable airport is closer in distance
, unless an emergency descent is required.

In flight, if an engine failure occurs, FAR 121.565(a) requires that “the
pilot in command shall land the airplane at the nearest suitable
airport, in point of time, at which a safe landing can made.” Therefore,
if an engine failure occurs, the flight crew will then determine the nearest suitable airport. The selected suitable airport may not necessarily be any of those selected for dispatching requirements.
So... what say you???
 

typhoonpilot

Well-Known Member
I say it depends a lot on the size of the airplane and whether it is passenger or cargo.

I, for one, will not land anywhere between Khartoum and Lagos in my aircraft unless I'm on fire. The risks to aircraft and pasengers are too great even if that means continuing for 2 hours on one engine. The same is true over northern Canada, Greenland, and Russia in the winter.

As long as you can justify your decision in going to a further airport in your type aircraft and the mission that you are flying then no sane Fed will question it. If you overfly three airports that your company serves just to get home then you'll be in trouble.


Typhoonpilot
 

EDUC8-or

Well-Known Member
Depends on the what's broken, for example if it's a flaps failure and there are 3 airports my company serves with 7000' runways that are closer than my original destination with a 10000' runway I'm going to continue to my destination. If I'm on fire I'm going to land ASAP, even at an airport my company doesn't serve unless it's an uncontrolled airport with no CFR. It's best to think what's the safest outcome for the passengers and crew, I know it may be more convenient for the company if we keep going, but I'll take a carpet dance over the wrath of the federales.
 

typhoonpilot

Well-Known Member
Depends on the what's broken, for example if it's a flaps failure and there are 3 airports my company serves with 7000' runways that are closer than my original destination with a 10000' runway I'm going to continue to my destination. If I'm on fire I'm going to land ASAP, even at an airport my company doesn't serve unless it's an uncontrolled airport with no CFR. It's best to think what's the safest outcome for the passengers and crew, I know it may be more convenient for the company if we keep going, but I'll take a carpet dance over the wrath of the federales.
I think we agree on the point here, but a flap failure is not a "land at the nearest suitable airport" type of failure. An engine failure is. The point I was making is that suitable has a broad definition depending on the type of aircraft you are operating and the part of the world you are over. If I'm coming over the north pole on my way to LAX and have an engine failure in the arctic circle putting down in Yellowknife in the middle of winter with 300 pax wouldn't be a great idea even though the airport is considered as a "suitable" enroute alternate. Going on to Edmonton or Calgary would be far more intelligent from many standpoints.

Now, if I'm in a Baron operating in the lower 48 and have to shut an engine down then there isn't much of an argument that I could make for not putting down at the nearest field with adequate runway length and reasonable weather.


Typhoonpilot
 

woodreau

Well-Known Member
We had just taken off and gave our out and off times to ops - and about 10 minutes later we shut down one engine. The checklists were run, the emergency was declared and we turned back to land.

When we tried to get a hold of ops there was no answer - ops had already gone home (usual routine). We knew CFR wasn't there (it wasn't required to have CFR available with the FAR 139 rules in effect at the time) and we were going to have to shoot an approach to get back in. Before we could land we first had to deal with a passenger who decided that he knew more about flying airplanes than we did and showed up unannounced and uninvited in our cockpit to try to tell us what to do. After getting rid of him, we elected to continue to a larger airport that was further away in point of time and landed safely there. Landed, shut down on the runway as it's not possible to single engine taxi the aircraft - got unceremonously towed off the runway.

Afterwards, the company hung us out to dry and the FAA violated us for not landing at the nearest suitable airport in point of time (the one we just left) and for electing to land at a more distant, larger airport (which had an operating control tower and radar facitilies, 24 hour CFR, scheduled commerical airline service (we didn't serve that airport though), and coincidently had one of our company's maintenance facilities). The airport we just left had nothing (no ATC, no CFR, and no station personnel- just the FBO fueler). It took a few months of fighting the violation to get cleared.
 

EDUC8-or

Well-Known Member
I think we agree on the point here, but a flap failure is not a "land at the nearest suitable airport" type of failure. An engine failure is. The point I was making is that suitable has a broad definition depending on the type of aircraft you are operating and the part of the world you are over. If I'm coming over the north pole on my way to LAX and have an engine failure in the arctic circle putting down in Yellowknife in the middle of winter with 300 pax wouldn't be a great idea even though the airport is considered as a "suitable" enroute alternate. Going on to Edmonton or Calgary would be far more intelligent from many standpoints.

Now, if I'm in a Baron operating in the lower 48 and have to shut an engine down then there isn't much of an argument that I could make for not putting down at the nearest field with adequate runway length and reasonable weather.


Typhoonpilot
I wasn't arguing your post, I was just giving my opinion.

Our QRH says to land at the nearest suitable airport if our flaps fail at greater than 0 degrees or there is an asymmetry. The CRJ is plagued with flap malfunctions, and they seem to happen anywhere from 0 to 45 degrees.

Our biggest hub is Charlotte, and just like you said there are LOTS of "suitable" airports nearby, whereas you're very isolated and out there on the long haul flights.
 

Toonces

Well-Known Member
We had just taken off and gave our out and off times to ops - and about 10 minutes later we shut down one engine. The checklists were run, the emergency was declared and we turned back to land.

When we tried to get a hold of ops there was no answer - ops had already gone home (usual routine). We knew CFR wasn't there (it wasn't required to have CFR available with the FAR 139 rules in effect at the time) and we were going to have to shoot an approach to get back in. Before we could land we first had to deal with a passenger who decided that he knew more about flying airplanes than we did and showed up unannounced and uninvited in our cockpit to try to tell us what to do. After getting rid of him, we elected to continue to a larger airport that was further away in point of time and landed safely there. Landed, shut down on the runway as it's not possible to single engine taxi the aircraft - got unceremonously towed off the runway.

Afterwards, the company hung us out to dry and the FAA violated us for not landing at the nearest suitable airport in point of time (the one we just left) and for electing to land at a more distant, larger airport (which had an operating control tower and radar facitilies, 24 hour CFR, scheduled commerical airline service (we didn't serve that airport though), and coincidently had one of our company's maintenance facilities). The airport we just left had nothing (no ATC, no CFR, and no station personnel- just the FBO fueler). It took a few months of fighting the violation to get cleared.
Sorry to hear you got violated. I am surprised the feds didn't see things your way with the factors you described.
I am dying to know what kind of advice mr. super passenger pilot had for you.
 

Bandit_Driver

Gold Member
We had just taken off and gave our out and off times to ops - and about 10 minutes later we shut down one engine. The checklists were run, the emergency was declared and we turned back to land.

When we tried to get a hold of ops there was no answer - ops had already gone home (usual routine). We knew CFR wasn't there (it wasn't required to have CFR available with the FAR 139 rules in effect at the time) and we were going to have to shoot an approach to get back in. Before we could land we first had to deal with a passenger who decided that he knew more about flying airplanes than we did and showed up unannounced and uninvited in our cockpit to try to tell us what to do. After getting rid of him, we elected to continue to a larger airport that was further away in point of time and landed safely there. Landed, shut down on the runway as it's not possible to single engine taxi the aircraft - got unceremonously towed off the runway.

Afterwards, the company hung us out to dry and the FAA violated us for not landing at the nearest suitable airport in point of time (the one we just left) and for electing to land at a more distant, larger airport (which had an operating control tower and radar facitilies, 24 hour CFR, scheduled commerical airline service (we didn't serve that airport though), and coincidently had one of our company's maintenance facilities). The airport we just left had nothing (no ATC, no CFR, and no station personnel- just the FBO fueler). It took a few months of fighting the violation to get cleared.
I cannot believe a FED would violate you that is a bunch of crap. I would wager the same FED would have hung you out to dry if you went back to the field with no support and had a fire. I don't know what plane you are flying B1900 maybe since a pax got in the cockpit but our ops require CFR be available at the time of landing.

Glad you got the violation reversed. Did it have to go to the NTSB or did the POI take care of it?
 

SpiraMirabilis

Possible Subversive
Sorry to hear you got violated. I am surprised the feds didn't see things your way with the factors you described.
I am dying to know what kind of advice mr. super passenger pilot had for you.
"This wouldn't have happened if you performed a run up like you're supposed to!"
 

Derg

New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
On the international side, if you have a medical emergency and you're within easy descent distance of CYQX, you might want to overfly and continue to CYYR because of the types of medical facilities.

*example only, I'm sitting here in Tulare with my books way over in Scottsdale.
 

Seggy

Well-Known Member
At some supplemental 121 places that do a lot of military charter flying, their POIs come in to discuss this to the guys in the new hire and upgrade classes. It was also a big point at the former ATA. A guy I know called them 'political alternates'.

Basically, they would completely understand if a plane diverts to Kuwait City over Tehran if they shut down an engine.
 

Van_Hoolio

Well-Known Member
At some supplemental 121 places that do a lot of military charter flying, their POIs come in to discuss this to the guys in the new hire and upgrade classes. It was also a big point at the former ATA. A guy I know called them 'political alternates'.

Basically, they would completely understand if a plane diverts to Kuwait City over Tehran if they shut down an engine.
Northwest put one down in Tehran a couple years back. :) It was a non-event, but then again it wasn't a MAC charter either.
 

woodreau

Well-Known Member
I cannot believe a FED would violate you that is a bunch of crap. I would wager the same FED would have hung you out to dry if you went back to the field with no support and had a fire. I don't know what plane you are flying B1900 maybe since a pax got in the cockpit but our ops require CFR be available at the time of landing.

Glad you got the violation reversed. Did it have to go to the NTSB or did the POI take care of it?
Actually, ALPA got us cleared (one good thing about having a union), despite the POI and chief pilot/director of operations. Our POI was the one that pushed for the violation - and I imagine the company's position was not to get fined or something. The chief pilot was most unhappy the union was involved. The POI's view was that we made the call to divert to the larger airport because it was our maintenance base instead of to the nearest airport - and not because of those other factors ATC / CFR / longer runway that we were thinking about at the time.

Yes it is the 1900 that we were flying, I guess 139 rules at the time didn't require the airports we operated at to have CFR to be present when we took off or landed because we were less than 30 pax. After I upgraded, either something changed in the 139 rules, because we got several messages / training presentations where I (as part of my PIC responsibilities) had to make sure CFR was available especially if were early or late because the airports we served only had CFR available 15 minutes before and after our scheduled departure and arrival times. Or maybe the rules were always the same, and having/not having CFR available wasn't a front burner issue with the FAA until something happened somewhere that caused all these messages and extra training to be generated.

I just know that when we had to divert that afternoon, there wasn't anyone going to be at the airport we just departed - just Bart the FBO fueler - nice guy - I think he would have done just about anything to get our fire out though, he'd use the fuel truck halon extinguisher, when it was done, then he'd pull the cooler off the back of the fuel truck and chuck the sodas/bottled water and ice cream at the fire, and then dump the melted ice/ice water onto the fire.

I am dying to know what kind of advice mr. super passenger pilot had for you.
I was a relatively new FO at the time, I played autopilot as best I could and let the captain deal with the passenger - I vaguely remember something about putting away the books (Company Flight Manual) we were reading, stop lolly-gagging and why don't you look outside to see that one of propellers had stopped turning (because it's feathered) and why don't we do something about it. Hey - thanks for telling us the engine's stopped working.
 
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