If a plane crashed but everyone (including the pilot) survives, what happens to the pilot?

Poster: STANCOBRIDGE | Date: 5:09pm, 2nd Mar 2018. | Views: 92 | 1 Replies
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STANCOBRIDGE. Jalingo, Taraba
5:09pm, 2nd Mar 2018.

Douglas Duncan Pickard

Aviation engineer for 10+ years. Mostly Avionics. Some airworthiness.

He (or she, I am going to stick with he just to avoid extra typing from here on out) goes to the hospital to get checked out. Assuming no major injuries he is released. He gets interviewed by the NTSB about the crash, probably more than once. Assuming there is no indication of malpractice on his part (like there was a mechanical issue with the plane that caused the crash), and his injuries don’t render him unable to pass a Class I flight physical then he keeps his license. The airline likely puts him back on flight status and he goes and flies his next assigned trip.

Loring Chien

Flown in my share of airplanes beginning in 1961.

First thing after they stabilize any injuries is to draw blood and do drug and alcohol tests on him and the copilot.

After that he is probably going to be quite thoroughly debriefed by several organizations including the FAA, his employer and the IAPA (Int’l Airline Pilots Association). His version of what happened will be checked against the cockpit flight data recorder and voice recorder and the ATC recordings.

Then he may well be treated like a hero - see Sully, the movie about the plane that lost both engines to bird strikes taking off from La Guardia in NYC. He managed to put the US Airways Flt 1549 Airbus plane down safely in the Hudson River with no casualties among the 153 on board and became a hero.

Jordan Hubbard


He or she then gets to participate in the subsequent investigation and probably answer a lot of questions. The Pilot In Command is legally responsible for the safety of the aircraft and all passengers. If the plane crashes, then “something obviously went wrong” and it’s the pilot’s job to explain what occurred and what steps they took to cope with it.

Hachi Ko

Pilot (ATP) & Air Traffic Controller (FAA Terminal ATC-12)

As a former accident investigator…

We take every accident seriously. When it comes to determining the cause of an accident, we don’t care if everyone lived, everyone died, or anything in between. It’s irrelevant to the cause. You have to separate yourself from injuries and fatalities because if you don’t it can really affect the objectivity of your thought and decision-making process when investigating the cause.

Sometimes the pilot is not at fault, sometimes he is at fault, and sometimes it’s a mixture of multiple causes. Sometimes the pilot was negligent, sometimes careless, sometimes he just “missed” something, and very rarely the pilot acted willfully and maliciously. Those are all we care about.

As to what happens to the pilot, all we care about is determining the probable cause. If the pilot survived, it’s up to the regulatory authorities and/or his employer to decide what’s to be done with him. In some countries, pilots can be held criminally liable, even for honest mistakes. His license can be suspended or revoked for carelessness or negligence. In just about every country, a pilot can certainly be sued for damages caused by his wrongful actions (tort), although if he is an employee his liability is usually assumed by his employer. At this point, it’s within the purview of the legal system and outside my area of expertise.

Tanmay Sakrikar

MBBS from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (2021)

The pilot becomes a hero in eyes of the public

A passenger airplane crashes and all passengers including the pilots survive - is a pretty rare occurrence. In most of the airplane crashes all the people on the airplane die and there usually are no survivors. Flying a commercial airplane is one of the toughest jobs in the world.

There are a million moving parts in the aircraft and the cockpit is full of indicators and lights for each and every small thing. So when any aircraft faces a risky situation like malfunction of cockpit indicators, double engine failure, mid air slats deployment, windshear or even severe turbulence the chances of all passengers escaping unharmed depend on the pilot. The decisions that the pilots take in such situations go a long way in saving the lives of the people on board.

Thus when all passengers and crew survive a crash the credit for achieving this incredible feat goes to the pilots. The pilots (Captain, first officer and any other associated persons) are hailed heros. They become a reason of pride for their nation and the airline they work for. The lives of all the souls on the plane are indebted to them.

Here is a list of the top awards received by the crew in the aftermath of three famous airline incidents of pilots landing a plane successfully in a Mayday situation.

US Airways flight 1549 ( The miracle on the Hudson) - Masters medal from the Guild of air pilots and air navigators - This honour is bestowed upon very rarely.

FedEx Flight 705 - Airline pilots association award for heroism - The highest award a civilian pilot can receive.

Quantas Flight 32 - One of the pilots was awarded the Member of Order of Australia

P.S. This is my opinion as an outsider having very little knowledge about the aviation industry. The answer is based on my interpretation of aircraft accidents after reading reports in newspapers and on various websites.

References - Wikipedia

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