The Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

The Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) formed the ICAO/CAST Common Taxonomy Team (CICTT) to produce standard definitions and taxonomies for aviation emergencies, as well as incident reporting systems (Boeing, 2016). CICTT was entrusted with categorizing emergencies that occur throughout specific phases of flight. Several situations may occur at various stages of flight. Air traffic, aircraft engine taxonomy, vulnerabilities, human aspects, phases of flight, definite taxonomy, and component/system failure are the categories for these emergencies.

During flight phases, emergencies are classified according to whether they include aircraft damage or human fatalities or injuries. Emergencies for aircraft can happen when there is engine malfunction/failure or when the damage happens for one engine, bent cowlings or fairings, dents on the skin, small punctures on the skin, damage to flaps, tires, wheels, brakes, wingtips, engine accessories, etc. Emergency events regarding fatalities can be due to self-inflicted injuries or injuries caused by others, injuries from natural causes, injuries due to stowaways, non-fatal injuries due to normal maneuvering, atmospheric turbulence, boarding, loose objects, servicing, maintenance or disembarking (Cabin Safety Team, 2007). Others include; non-fatal injuries to people not aboard the plane, experimental test flights, hijacking, sabotage, military action, and terrorism (Boeing, 2016). Each of these emergency scenarios happens in different phases of flight as described below.

Standing Phase

During this phase, the airplane is stationary before taxi or pushback, at the gate, parking area, ramp or after arrival. The engine is not operating, is starting-up, is operating or shutting down. At this point, an engine may malfunction or fail demanding cancellation of its scheduled departure time. There are no probable fatalities in this phase (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).


The aircraft starts moving along the gate, parking area or ramp and is assisted by the tow vehicle. In this phase, all sub-phases that include engine not operating, start-up, operating and shutdown are assisted. The engine may fail or malfunction and no possible fatalities at this phase (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

Taxi phase

In this phase, the airplane is moving along the aerodrome surface before take-off. The phase is characterized by sub-phases such as power back, taxi to run-away, taxi to take-off position, and taxi from runaway. An engine may fail or malfunction at this phase even though cases are rare. Few injuries may occur at this phase and hence emergency aid sought for (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

Takeoff phase

The takeoff power is applied via by rising to an altitude of 35 feet surface. During takeoff, an engine may fail or malfunction, a suspicious activity detected and the flight aborted where the airplane begins to taxi from the runaway. During this phase, damage to aircraft may occur and passengers injured (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

Initial climb

The phase covers the instance from where the takeoff ends to its first prescribed point to reduce power or until the aircraft reaches 1000 feet above the runway elevation. It is during this phase that the aircraft uses most power as it ascends against gravity. Engine failure or malfunction may occur at this phase or even external damage to the plane due to collisions with foreign objects in the sky. Hazards may find their way and cause fatalities as well as injuries if the airplane could lose control on collision to external objects (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

En route phase

This phase covers the time when the initial climb is completed through to initial approach. It is during this phase that instrument flight rules and visual flight rules are applied. The sub-phases include; climbing to cruise, cruising, changing cruise levels, descending, and holding for predetermined maneuvers. Many emergencies can occur at this phase that includes; damage to the plane due to collision with foreign objects, depletion of fuel, engine malfunctions, or failure, other technical anomalies, sabotage, hijacking, terrorism, self-inflicted injuries or injuries inflicted on others or other medical complications due to illness, etc. All these can be declared as emergencies (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

Maneuvering phase

This constitutes the aerobic and low flight operations sub-phases such as intentional maneuvering that goes beyond 30 degrees of pitch altitude or abnormal acceleration. During this phase, many injuries may happen as well as damage to the aircraft. It is also easy for the pilots to lose control of the plane due to sudden changes in altitude and pressures. This happens during observation works, aerial applications, sightseeing, training, ostentatious display, etc (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).

Approach phase

The phase entails from both Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules to Initial Approach Fix (IAF). The sub-phases under this include initial approach, final approach, circuit patterns (downwind, base, final, and crosswind) and missed approach/go around. During this approach, the pilot may lose control or miss the VFR landing with impact causing damage to the airplane or resulting in a fire. People may be injured or killed in case of an explosion (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).


The phase covers the time when the landing flare is engaged until the aircraft exits the landing runway and stops or when on touch and go landing. The sub-phases include; flare, landing roll, and aborted landing. This is one of the most tricky flight control for the pilot. The pilot may be unable to land safely due to mechanical damages on the plane. Depending on the emergency, emergency descent is engaged to save lives. In other cases, an uncontrolled descent can happen when the pilot is unable to sustain controlled flight landing (Commercial Aviation Safety Team, 2013).


Boeing. (2016). Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents. Chicago, Illinois, United States: Boeing .

Cabin Safety Team. (2007). Cabin Safety Compedium to the Operator's Flight Safety Handbook. A Companion, 1(1).

Commercial Aviation Safety Team. (2013). PHASE OF FLIGHT. United States: Commercial Aviation Safety Team.

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