Glossary

jet charter pilots in cockpit

PAN PAN

The term pan pan, besides being known as airplane talk, is used in radiotelephone communications to signify that there is an urgency on board a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle. It is referred to when it is a state of urgency, but not when there is an immediate danger to a person’s life or to the vessel itself.

Pan Pan vs. Mayday

Three calls of pan pan are used to signify an urgent situation that requires assistance and is usually used when a pilot has become lost, or has experienced a serious aircraft system failure that requires an immediate route or altitude change.

When a pilot utilizes airplane talk and radios out a pan pan, it informs emergency services, air traffic control, and other aircraft within distance that a safety problem exists. Some scenarios that may warrant a pan pan call are:

  • a fire located on the ground
  • spotting another aircraft in trouble
  • if a crewmember or passenger looses consciousness

A mayday radio call should be only be used for life threatening situations such as loss, or imminent loss of aircraft control, or an onboard fire.

A mayday informs emergency services and ground and air traffic control to drop all other activities and immediately initiate a rescue attempt.