How are airplane pilots trained to respond to ground distress signals (smoke, flares, rock formations)?

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How are airplane pilots trained to respond to ground distress signals (smoke, flares, rock formations)?

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Commercial airliners fly far too high to observe anything like that, and their job is to fly the plane. There is no special training, so if by some miracle a pilot spotted something like that, they’d do what they would for anything unusual and contact ATC.

In general pilots do not look for these. And airplanes up at cruise altitude will have a very hard time spotting things all the way on the ground. But if they spot something odd then they will call up the air traffic controller in the area and report this. The air traffic controller will have the coordinates of the airplane and have a list of authorities to call for different types of issues. These can then make a call as to how to respond. They do not respond to everything because not all observations are real or even emergencies. For example smoke can be from a lost hiker, a forest fire or someone out camping. The local authorities are the best ones to judge which is most likely.

Only Search-and-Rescue aviators are looking for this sort of thing. When someone knows to look, then they fly in a pattern that’s optimized for looking for this sort of thing.

Typical jet pilots are too high to see ground signals. Small propeller plane pilots and general aviation pilots are lower and slower and have reported airplanes down or plane crashes to ATC.

Unless there is a search and rescue mission, I don’t think pilots are trained nor are they looking for distress signals.