If there is a medical emergency on board, on a passenger or crew member, will the crew be cleared to use PAN PAN/MAYDAY MEDICAL on their R/T?

Is there any DOC in which regulates these phraseology?


2 Answers 2


The UK CAA Radiotelephony Manual (CAP 413) has the following to say about it:

PAN PAN MEDICAL is not used in the UK but refers to a Geneva Convention term associated with medical transportation by parties involved in a conflict.

Use of this term is not appropriate in the UK.

Which seems to be a pretty definitive no. Personally, I'd not heard of the term but assuming the CAA's interpretation of the ICAO's definition (i.e., for use during war) then I can't imagine it ever being appropriate outside of that use.

That said, why would you need to? Using a normal MAYDAY or PAN call and describing the emergency as a medical one is perfectly acceptable and would be fully understood by all parties.

  • $\begingroup$ The last paragraph is the definitive answer. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:52

No. The phrase 'PAN PAN Medical' is reserved exclusively for medical transports. From ICAO Annex 10 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation- Aeronautical Telecommunications Volume II:

For the purpose of announcing and identifying aircraft used for medical transports, a transmission of the radiotelephony urgency signal PAN PAN, preferably spoken three times, and each word of the group pronounced as the French word “panne”, shall be followed by the radiotelephony signal for medical transports MAY-DEE-CAL, pronounced as in the French “médical”. The use of the signals described above indicates that the message which follows concerns a protected medical transport.

However, the pilot can use PAN-PAN followed by request for medical advise if the situation is urgent. According to FAA Air Traffic Organization Policy, Air Traffic Control, PAN-PAN is used in case of urgency.

A pilot who encounters a Distress condition should declare an emergency by beginning the initial communication with the word “Mayday,” preferably repeated three times. For an Urgency condition, the word “Pan-Pan” should be used in the same manner.

PAN-PAN- The international radio-telephony urgency signal. When repeated three times, indicates uncertainty or alert followed by the nature of the urgency.

So, PAN-PAN followed by request for medical advise is ok.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's worth stating that a pilot who is experiencing a medical problem should call a mayday whereas if it is a passenger having a medical problem it's a pan-pan. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Nov 26, 2015 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD, I believe a passenger with medical problem might warrant a mayday too if the problem is life-threatening, no? Of course the bar is much lower for pilot. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Nov 26, 2015 at 17:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Mayday calls should be reserved for problems that impact the safety of the flight, and a passenger illness generally doesn't count. It's really moot, if you tell ATC you have a seriously ill passenger you will get priority. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Nov 27, 2015 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ I would agree with Jan Hudec here. Mayday is a distress call that should be used when the aircraft requires immediate assistance (CAO Phraseology Reference Guide). If a passenger is in immediate life danger, I would most likely declare an emergency with a mayday call. $\endgroup$
    – Sami
    Dec 3, 2015 at 23:52

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