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Old 01-08-2021, 04:46 PM
Paul 5r4 Paul 5r4 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Foley, Al
Posts: 606
Default Pan Pan vs Mayday

I have a question. I listened to the audio of a controller... I think somewhere in the North East part of the country but not sure.... anyway, he had an aircraft several miles out over water and instructed the pilot to descend. The pilot stated he was too far out and was already out of gliding distance and requested an immediate heading change to head back closer to land. The controllers response was IMHO a scolding and again instructed him to hold his heading and descend. They again had a round of disagreement with the controller holding his ground and the pilot finally descended despite his feelings that the descent jeopardized even more than it already was his and the passengers safety.

Trying to learn something and think about how I would have handled this brought me to this question. If the pilot had declared a Pan Pan Pan would that have helped his situation? With a Pan, I don't think he could have turned against the controllers instructions. I decided if it had been me, I would have most likely handled it like a Delta crew did with a statement something like "If you don't give me an immediate heading change, I am going to declare an emergency and turn back towards land.

And I know the engine has no idea it's over water so please don't go there. The point here is a pilot obviously was very uncomfortable with his situation and tried to get a new heading with no luck. (He did eventually get his heading change).

EDITED couple hrs later. I know the difference between the pan and mayday/emergency. Just wondering what would have been the best way to have handled the above situation. I may have heard UNABLE during the pilots transmission but it was clear it was his heading he was concerned about and wanted something taking him closer to land. After more thinking and reading the posts... I think I would have just declared the emergency to get back.
Thoughts and Thanks!
Paul Gray
Foley, Alabama
N729PG..... 500+ hrs
RV 7A, Lycoming 0 320 D1A, Sensenich FP propeller
VAF supporter $$$

Last edited by Paul 5r4 : 01-08-2021 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 01-08-2021, 04:57 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 1,428

I've used both and, in my limited experience, there was little if any difference, despite what the books may say.

In any case, when in doubt, declare an emergency. It's rare to have to explain your actions after doing so -- I'm 0 for 3 or 0 for 4, don't recall. And in any case, file an ASRS report to protect your certificate.

Once you've filed an ASRS, you can talk freely with the FAA. As in any organization, there are good guys and bad guys... and we've all got more to learn.
RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual G3X Touch with autopilot, GTN650, GTX330ES, GDL52 ADSB-In)
Previously RV-4, RV-8, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
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Old 01-08-2021, 05:53 PM
Rallylancer122 Rallylancer122 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Oconto, WI
Posts: 209

The pilot could have simply said "unable" when told to descend.
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Old 01-08-2021, 05:56 PM
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MacCool MacCool is offline
Join Date: Aug 2020
Location: central Minnesota
Posts: 523

Scott Perdue had a nice review of an episode where he was at odds with an ATC controller at KLAS on an emergency approach into that airport.
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Old 01-08-2021, 06:29 PM
FLTENG FLTENG is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Victoria B.C. Can.
Posts: 376
Default PAN

The radiotelephony message PAN-PAN is the international standard urgency signal that someone aboard a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle uses to declare that they have a situation that is urgent,[1][2][3] but for the time being, does not pose an immediate danger to anyone's life or to the vessel itself.
Enough said!
Cheers, Hugh
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:29 PM
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scard scard is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cedar Park, TX
Posts: 3,229

For me, if my pants aren't already soiled, we're still just working together, so we negotiate. If I'm not hearing that we're working toward a solution, second round from me is, "Unable". If it sounds like we're still not working together and I'm out at sea doing X knots while that controller is nice and comfy in his chair while I'm staring at all the factors and options dwindling fast (been there and know it well).. Yeah, declare! The magic word is "Emergency". Forget the semantics of the other words.

I haven't ever gotten all the way to the third strike where I felt the controller was in my way, but I have been in the situation of knowing there is nothing they can do but shut up and clear the field.
Scott Card
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RV-9A N4822C flying 2200+hrs. / Cedar Park, TX
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Old 01-08-2021, 07:34 PM
andrewtac andrewtac is offline
Join Date: May 2014
Location: Friendswood TX
Posts: 315

Both are icao standard. Mayday is equivalent to declaring an emergency maybe towards the immediate danger, pan was covered above. Just like position and hold went away I bet emergency goes away.
Mark Andrew Tacquard

RV8 N189DK
RV10 in progress
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Old 01-08-2021, 08:51 PM
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greghughespdx greghughespdx is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Aurora, OR
Posts: 954

"Unable" is the correct word to use first I think, in this situation.
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Old 01-08-2021, 10:11 PM
crabandy crabandy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Ottawa, Ks
Posts: 2,220

Clear communication is always paramount, Pan Pan or May Day will be the attention getter......Don’t think of the controller as a pilot friend, pretend he is your neighbor down the street that hasn’t a clue about airplanes and you have to explain the basics to them. Tell them what you want and or need in basic English, sometimes unable is the best answer but give them a “why” so they can enact plan B.
RV 7 500 hours and counting
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Last edited by crabandy : 01-08-2021 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 01-08-2021, 10:30 PM
McStevens McStevens is online now
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Edmonds, WA
Posts: 140

Would there be a link to the audio OP references? I love listening to things like this.
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