How to use Garmin Pilot’s emergency mode

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Most of the major electronic flight bag apps long ago reach parity on key features: they all have detailed moving maps, pre-flight weather forecasts, altitude-specific terrain alerts, powerful flight planning tools, and much more. There are certainly important differences in how these features are implemented, but there haven’t been many truly new app features over the last year. One exception is Garmin’s Emergency Mode, which was released this summer. It’s simple, but thoughtfully designed and very useful. Here’s how to use it.

How it works

In an emergency (engine failure, instrument failure, passenger medical issue), time is of the essence, so Emergency Mode is focused on decluttering and simplifying. To enter this mode, simply tap EMER from any page – it’s at the top right of every page.

After tapping EMER, the app will automatically go to the Map page and darken the map except for nearby airports. Across the top of the screen you’ll also see a list of nearby airports, sorted by distance from your airplane. If you have glide range configured, you’ll also see a real-item glide range ring around your location, showing which airports might be within gliding distance. With one tap, you have instant situational awareness.

After reviewing the big picture, you can then drill down on specific airports to evaluate which one is best. Tap on an airport button or location on the map and Garmin Pilot will zoom in on it, as well as show the course and distance.

You can tap on the airport again to review essential airport information, including runways, frequencies and weather.

After reviewing all the airport information, it’s time to head for an airport. From the airport drop-down menu, tap the D button to go from your present position directly to that airport.

You can even tap on an instrument procedure to overlay the chart on the map – a huge time-saver if you’re in IMC and need to shoot an approach. All this takes just three or four taps, so in seconds you can be headed to a nearby airport with the approach plate loaded.

Setup options

There isn’t much configuration to do with this feature – by default the feature is on. However, there are three settings to verify if you want to get the most utility out of Emergency Mode.

First, go to Settings -> General and specify your runway preferences. If you’re in a Cub, you can probably leave Runway Surface Type on “Any” and Minimum Runway Length at 0; in a Citation you may want to specify hard surface and 3000 feet.

Second, go to the bottom of the General page in Settings and consider whether you want to hide the EMER button when you’re not in the air. We like to leave this option selected off, but if you’d rather turn it off for preflight planning, slide the button right.

Finally, go to the Aircraft page in Settings and make sure you have glide performance specified for each of the airplanes you fly. Tap on each airplane, then check the Glide settings under the Aircraft tab.

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