A Complete Manual for Conducting International Flight Operations

Distress Terminolgoy

Distress Terminology

ICAO procedures have distress signals that differ from those which most U.S. pilots are familiar. In ICAO airspace the terms used to express an emergency situation are “MAYDAY-MAYDAY” and “PAN-PAN”, repeated three times. When such distress calls are heard on frequency, it is the responsibility of all pilots to minimize radio congestion and render aid to the emergency aircraft as appropriate. For additional information on contingency procedures, ICAO Annex 10 Vol II, shall be referenced.

"MAYDAY-MAYDAY" Distress Signal

A condition of distress, being threatened by serious and or imminent danger and requiring immediate assistance. An example requiring a MAYDAY call would be an emergency descent, smoke in the cockpit, engine failure, etc.

"PAN-PAN-" Distress Signal

A condition of urgency which does not require immediate assistance. PAN-PAN may be appropriate when an immediate weather deviation is necessary or to advise of a threatening meteorological condition.


The material contained on this site is to be used for reference  only. You should always follow your primary resources first (aircraft manuals, government regulations, etc.).

Savant Aero is no way affiliated with any aircraft manufacturers.