Section 1. General

  1. An emergency can be either a Distress or an Urgency condition as defined in the “Pilot/Controller Glossary.”
  2. 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.
  3. If the words “Mayday” or “Pan-Pan” are not used but you believe an emergency or an urgent situation exists, handle it as though it were an emergency.
  4. Because of the infinite variety of possible emergency situations, specific procedures cannot be prescribed. However, when you believe an emergency exists or is imminent, select and pursue a course of action which appears to be most appropriate under the circumstances and which most nearly conforms to the instructions in this manual.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 9-2-6, IFR Military Training Routes.

  1. Use the information provided or solicit more information as necessary to assist the distressed aircraft. Provide assistance that is consistent with the requests of the pilot. If you believe an alternative course of action may prove more beneficial, transmit your recommendation(s) to the pilot.


14 CFR § 91.3 Responsibilities and authority of pilot in command.

  1. If an emergency was declared by an Emergency Autoland system, the aircraft may transmit the following:
  1. Callsign.
  2. That Emergency Autoland has been activated.
  3. Position (mileage and direction) relative to a nearby airport.
  4. The intended emergency landing airport and the planned landing runway.
  5. An ETE to the emergency landing airport.


“Aircraft, N123B, pilot incapacitation, 12 miles southwest of KOJC, landing KIXD airport. Emergency Autoland in 13 minutes on runway 36.”


  1. System configurations may vary between manufacturers. All systems should be configured to transmit enough information for the controller to respond effectively to the emergency.
  2. In the event of frequency congestion, an Emergency Autoland system may transmit on 121.5 or CTAF instead of the last assigned ATC frequency.

Provide maximum assistance to aircraft in distress. Enlist the services of available radar facilities operated by the FAA, the military services, and the Federal Communications Commission, as well as their emergency services and facilities, when the pilot requests or when you deem necessary.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 2-1-4, Operational Priority.

  1. If you are in communication with an aircraft in distress, handle the emergency and coordinate and direct the activities of assisting facilities. Transfer this responsibility to another facility only when you feel better handling of the emergency will result.
  2. When you receive information about an aircraft in distress, forward detailed data to the center in whose area the emergency exists.


  1. Centers serve as the central points for collecting information, for coordinating with SAR, and for conducting a communications search by distributing any necessary ALNOTs concerning:
    1. Overdue or missing IFR aircraft.
    2. Aircraft in an emergency situation occurring in their respective area.
    3. Aircraft on a combination VFR/IFR or an airfiled IFR flight plan and 30 minutes have passed since the pilot requested IFR clearance and neither communication nor radar contact can be established with it. For SAR purposes, these aircraft are treated the same as IFR aircraft.
    4. Overdue or missing aircraft which have been authorized to operate in accordance with special VFR clearances.
  2. Notifying the center about a VFR aircraft emergency allows provision of IFR separation if considered necessary.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 10-2-5, Emergency Situations.
FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 10-3-2, Information to be Forwarded to ARTCC.
FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 10-3-3, Information to be Forwarded to RCC.

  1. If the aircraft involved is operated by a foreign air carrier, notify the center serving the departure or destination point, when either point is within the U.S., for relay to the operator of the aircraft.
  2. The ARTCC must be responsible for receiving and relaying all pertinent ELT signal information to the appropriate authorities.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 10-2-10, Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) Signals.

  1. When consideration is given to the need to escort an aircraft in distress, evaluate the close formation required by both aircraft. Special consideration should be given if the maneuver takes the aircraft through the clouds.
  2. Before a determination is made to have an aircraft in distress be escorted by another aircraft, ask the pilots if they are familiar with and capable of formation flight.
  1. Do not allow aircraft to join up in formation during emergency conditions, unless:
  1. The pilots involved are familiar with and capable of formation flight.
  2. They can communicate with one another, and have visual contact with each other.
  1. If there is a need for aircraft that are not designated as search and rescue aircraft to get closer to one another than radar separation standards allow, the maneuver must be accomplished, visually, by the aircraft involved.

Coordinate efforts to the extent possible to assist any aircraft believed overdue, lost, or in emergency status.



  1. When an emergency occurs on the airport proper, control other air and ground traffic to avoid conflicts in the area where the emergency is being handled. This also applies when routes within the airport proper are required for movement of local emergency equipment going to or from an emergency which occurs outside the airport proper.


Aircraft operated in proximity to accident or other emergency or disaster locations may cause hindrances to airborne and surface rescue or relief operations. Congestion, distraction or other effects, such as wake turbulence from nearby airplanes and helicopters, could prevent or delay proper execution of these operations.


FAA Order JO 7210.3, Chapter 20, Temporary Flight Restrictions.
14 CFR Section 91.137, Temporary Flight Restrictions.

  1. Workload permitting, monitor the progress of emergency vehicles responding to a situation. If necessary, provide available information to assist responders in finding the accident/incident scene.
  1. The design and complexity of military fighter‐type aircraft places an extremely high workload on the pilot during an inflight emergency. The pilot's full attention is required to maintain control of the aircraft. Therefore, radio frequency and transponder code changes should be avoided and radio transmissions held to a minimum, especially when the aircraft experiencing the emergency is at low altitude.
  2. Pilots of military fighter-type aircraft, normally single engine, experiencing or anticipating loss of engine power or control may execute a flameout pattern in an emergency situation. Circumstances may dictate that the pilot, depending on the position and nature of the emergency, modify the pattern based on actual emergency recovery requirements.
  3. Military airfields with an assigned flying mission may conduct practice emergency approaches. Participating units maintain specific procedures for conducting these operations.


FAA Order JO 7110.65, Para 3-10-13, Simulated Flameout (SFO) Approaches/Emergency Landing Pattern (ELP) Operations/Practice Precautionary Approaches.