How ATC reacts to emergencies

I’ve noticed the few times I’ve had a fuel emergency ATC aren’t the best with handling it. I feel that the ATC aren’t trained in emergencies properly. IRL with low fuel ATC will divert the aircraft to the runway closest that can handle that aircraft size. This doesn’t happen in IF. This can cause many problems including crashing because of running out of fuel even if another runway would have been appropriate.

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Speaking from the perspective of a controller, we are not trained to handle emergency traffic due to low fuel, because we are taught that under normal circumstances, no planes should really be getting special services. We also take into assumption that the pilots who are flying into our airspace are prepared for longer flight times as a result of having to hold, be vectored, and generally stay in the air for a longer time. While there is no doubt that we’d aim to bring you down in one piece as quickly and safely as possible if you are running low on fuel, we would also hope that in return, pilots come with more fuel to be prepared to have to deal with longer flight times.

We aren’t trained to handle with emergencies because after all, this is a flight simulator. Not a crash simulator.


I understand that. I always try to have at least 45m-2h of reserve fuel on flights but once in a blue moon due to changing winds or other factors I run low on fuel.

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We should have a “low fuel” event, and see who makes it down to the ground alive.


Sometimes 45 minutes to two hours of fuel reserve may not necessarily be enough given that changing winds can quickly make your plans fall apart. This can be evident when you’re flying much longer routes, say trans-oceanic routes. All in all, the responsibility for a plane to get down in one piece falls on the pilot in command, so if you do crash as a result of not bringing enough fuel, the blame does lie a lot on the pilot, you are the captain of the plane anyways.

Not that it’s always your fault, excessive traffic to an airport, overwhelmed airspace can all be valid reasons to have an emergency, even if you planned properly, however these things can happen, and the best thing to do is to be prepared by bringing more than you need. No one is really to blame in this situation.

Check websites like They give you a good sense of how the traffic at a certain airport would be, and it’ll definitely help you plan better.

I was on fuel emergency someday. Was flying FAOR to FACT and misjudged the fuel consumption and flight duration. I declared fuel emergency after IFATC approach controller forgot me and I wasn’t following trafic flow without ATC instructions. I’ve lost 20 minutes of fuel because of that, so when I came back to the trafic flow I had less than 30mins so I declared emergency and IFATC controller created a gap for me to cut behind 5-6 planes on final and I was able to land.

So all this to say that the only time I declared emergency in Expert server I was vectored really good for landing in no time :)


There’s a command for emergency?

I won’t use it but I’ve never heard of it.

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When you declare an emergency because of fuel we will expedite your arrival. That can mean you landing on the closest runway, even if it is not in use.

If we can’t ensure you will make it to the airport in time we will have to tell you to divert.

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I had a similar experience some months ago. I can feel you, but I can also understand ATC. Especially when I comes to Hub airports. I can imagine that it is extremely difficult for them to sequence traffic in order to keep everything in a efficient flow. To fill you in a (non existing) gap would probably destroy the whole order and would lead to even more incidents. To keep it short: this is a simulator. Pack enough fuel to get your plane safely to your destination. That’s what I learned out of it.

We do not care about the sequence when there is an emergency aircraft. We also factor in the remaining fuel reported in the emergency request (30 minutes remaining).

Man you really have the best ideas for events, from a Castaway recreation to survival games. Lmao

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Well ok, then I have to say: this also happened to me. Back in this situation there was no guidance or even a solution given by ATC to either divert me to another airport nor helping me to get safe to a runway. No complaining, I know how to deal with it now and as I mentioned I can totally understand if it is too complicated for ATC at busy hubs.

That would have helped me to safe my plane and many lifes back in the days 😄. But as the author of the thread suggested: would it be a good idea for ATC to train such situations?

It is common sense. There are certain things we don’t test, it is more of an on the job type experience thing. They are taught it before being sent out into the wild though. They normally are receiving help real-time in our Discord when it happens if they need it.

If you call in with 30 minutes of fuel remaining and the rest of the approach will only take 5 minutes, we’re not going to vector you out of the sequence.

Sure thing. As I said, I can understand both sides. For pilots it can be really frustrating if less or no help is provided (my experience) On the other hand, I totally understand the difficulty of handling a huge amount of traffic.

What would help from ATC in that situation?

Basically two things that are already part of the game/procedure:

A specific command „divert to“ + destination (destination isn’t possible as of right now?!) if the controller recognizes the pilot couldn’t make it to the airport with the remaining fuel.

If traffic allows it and a runway is free at this time assigning the runway for an emergency landing.

And: ATCs with a guidance of how to deal situations like these, if not already part of the education program or in the manual itself. Just my opinion, not speaking for others. I just try making the experience more realistic, no criticism :).

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From another ATC point of view i have dealt with this on 2 separate occasions and had a positive result as atc should treat emergencies as a priority and ensure the aircraft gets on the ground safely as long as traffic is at a minimum

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How do you declare emergency to controller. Do you do it in the game, because I’ve never seen a button to call emergency?

You have to be at your emergency fuel limit. If this happens a button in your command menu will appear.