A few discussions going on today about Mayday and Pan Pan.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) designates what words pilots and controllers use to communicate worldwide.

Pan Pan and Mayday are ICAO designated distress phrases.

A lot of US pilots aren’t familiar with the ICAO terms. We just use the phrase “declaring an emergency.”

In many countries, “declare an emergency” has no meaning. Don’t try to use it in China.

When PanPan/Mayday are heard, everyone stays quiet so ATC can help the distressed aircraft.

Pan Pan is the term used when a ship or aircraft has an urgent situation - but, for the time being, the problem doesn’t pose immediate danger to anyone’s life or the vessel itself.

Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan. Shanghai Control, AeroSavvy 911 requires immediate left turn for severe weather.


Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan. Kansai approach, AeroSavvy 911 - flap failure. Unable to fly arrival. Request vectors for 20 mile final.

This lets controllers know we have a problem and need assistance but we have things under control.

It’ll work out, but delays or a normal approach could cause problems.

Mayday is the term used to alert authorities that we have *imminent* danger to life or the vessel itself.

The phrase is stated 3 times to assure no confusion.

If things are going to hell in a hand basket, Mayday is the right call...


Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. Incheon Approach. AeroSavvy 911. Smoke in the cockpit. Request vectors for immediate landing. High speed descent.

Mayday tells the controllers that they need to move *everyone* out of the way. The distress aircraft can’t afford any delays.

Pilots can change Pan Pan into Mayday & vice versa. They can even cancel the declaration:

“AeroSavvy 911 is clear of weather. Cancel Pan Pan.”

Choosing Mayday or Pan Pan is up to the Pilot in Command. Both are emergency declarations. Choosing appropriately helps ATC understand the level of urgency.

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