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5 Answers

Is a broken Rudder cable an emergency?

Asked by: 2730 views ,
Aircraft Systems, General Aviation, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

So in the rare event that your in the pattern and you snap a rudder cable, would you consider declaring an emergency to get help on the ready just as a precaution?  Would you divert to an airport with a wider runway?   Or would you simply let ATC know of your situation and land using your other available control surfaces?     

Lets say you have a 7kt crosswind, your flying a 172, and the runway is 5000'x75' 

Thanks! I just like getting other pilots/CFI's opinions about these random situations :) 

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5 Answers

  1. John D Collins on Jun 24, 2014


    If a control failure isn’t an emergency, what is? What will your airplane do if the failure occurs? Will the spring tension on one side of the rudder deflect it to a hard over position? Will it prevent steering?

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  2. YokeAndRudderPilot on Jun 24, 2014

    I would probably divert to an airport with a runway that has as small a x-wind component as possible. But John D Collins is asking a good question though. Given your specific type of airplane, how would it behave if the rudder cable “snaps”? In the 172s I fly, there is a procedure for when the elevator becomes “unresponsive”. And it is possible to get the airplane on the ground with trim and power adjustments alone.

    Disclaimer: I’m a private pilot.

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  3. Stephen Bellacera on Jun 24, 2014

    Thanks John and YRP, I agree its an emergency…the root of my question really is would it be warranted to declare an emergency and scrambling the trucks/shutting down the airport if you felt you can still land safely? In Cessna I believe I could land fine with light winds, a long and wide runway, but I can’t deny that the risk would increase a little bit. Also, has anyone ever been penalized for declaring an emergency that was deemed unwarranted?

    FYI: I would probably still declare…I just wanted to get other pilots opinions.

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  4. John D Collins on Jun 24, 2014

    When you have an emergency, don’t hesitate to declare one and ask for priority handling. If it was of your own doing, then there may be consequence, but hopefully they will be post landing rather than postmortem. I have declared an emergency twice in my 46 years of flying and was never contacted by the FAA and no one I know that has declared an emergency has been asked to call the FAA that I am aware of. If you cause the emergency and get help to keep you alive, you may be asked to explain yourself and might have a consequence of remedial training, but IMHO that would be a small price to pay. I probably have over 1000 hours in various Cessna aircraft and I would definitely declare an emergency based on your original question and I am not so sure that the handling issues would be as benign as you suggest.

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  5. Stephen Bellacera on Jun 24, 2014

    Thanks John for the great advice! I definitely agree that its better to declare and live to fly another day! Would you care to share your two emergencies?

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