Apart from 'mayday' which other common emergency messages are used? Is there any regulation regarding them?

Any other light are used by ATC than these? : https://learntofly.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/ATC-Light-Gun-Signals.gif

Is it the same Emergency messages and Light signals used worldwide or are they different US-Europe ?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related, although you seem to be asking two different questions and it might be better to ask them separately. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:49
  • $\begingroup$ In the US,controllers may also treat things as if there were an emergency even tho you may not have declared one. If they start asking about souls on board, you're getting the emergency treatment. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Apr 9, 2018 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Questions should include all information required to answer them, rather than requiring people to follow links to get the information. $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    Apr 10, 2018 at 10:24

2 Answers 2


If you are asking about radio telephony then,

b. 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.

  • There is Pan Pan which is covered here, although that is typically used for an "urgent" situation.
  • Primarily there is Mayday for emergencies.
  • There is simply "I have an emergency...." (or if it’s potentially less urgent “a problem” r.e. Apollo 13) however this is not the preferred method.

Those are the three big ones and will get the attention of a controller as well as alerting other pilots on the frequency that there is a problem in the area.

As for the other part of your question, the light signal chart you linked is for tower to aircraft communications when radio is not available. These signals are only used when the aircraft is in close (visual) proximity to the tower.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think anyone aboard Apollo 13 stated that they had "an emergency", and there certainly was no need for Mission Control to tell them that. I know that the crew's first report after the oxygen tank explosion was "we've had a problem". (Not "we have a problem".) However, I'd be happy to be set straight if you can provide a reference. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 9, 2018 at 17:59

Those signals are regulated by ICAO Annex 2 rule of the air: https://www.icao.int/Meetings/anconf12/Document%20Archive/an02_cons%5B1%5D.pdf

Therefore international.Some other ground signals are indicated there but as far as light signals the ones you showed are the only ones.

  • $\begingroup$ That is not specific at all. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2018 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Sanmer, i am sorry if i wasn’t more precise. Let me be more specific then.... MAYDAY and PAN PAN are the only ones used. Again the document I submitted is the reference internationally. Different authorities might have slight differences from this standards. Have a look from page 34 onwards i believe. To summarise and be specific: 1/Other than mayday and pan pan the answer is no. 2/Regulation is down to every local authority but the top authority is the ICAO $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2018 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Heliomaster Please Edit your answer to clarify in response to comments. You can then ping the user who requested clarification to let them know of the edit. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 9, 2018 at 8:09

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