Coordination in respect of aircraft in state of emergency

Coordination in respect of aircraft in state of emergency


  • A European ANSP has reported that difficulties have been encountered in establishing the full circumstances of aircraft handed off from transferring Units which have an aircraft with declared state of emergency.
  • The reported cases are about "traffic diverting or requiring priority handling for technical or medical reasons".
  • The effect of this has sometimes been to significantly reduce the efficiency with which useful assistance from both ANSPs and Airports can be rendered to the aircraft involved, including the priority over other aircraft.

ICAO Provisions In PANS-ATM (DOC 4444)

  • Regarding the priority:

    15.1.2 Priority

    An aircraft known or believed to be in a state of emergency, including being subjected to unlawful interference, shall be given priority over other aircraft.

  • Regarding emergency phase

    Emergency phase. A generic term meaning, as the case may be, uncertainty phase, alert phase or distress phase.

    Uncertainty phase. A situation wherein uncertainty exists as to the safety of an aircraft and its occupants.

    Alert phase. A situation wherein apprehension exists as to the safety of an aircraft and its occupants.

    Distress phase. A situation wherein there is reasonable certainty that an aircraft and its occupants are threatened by grave and imminent danger or require immediate assistance.

  • Regarding radiotelephony distress signal The radiotelephony distress signal (MAYDAY) or urgency signal (PAN PAN) preferably spoken three times shall be used as appropriate. Subsequent ATC action with respect to that aircraft shall be based on the intentions of the pilot and the overall air traffic situation.

  • Regarding coordination between ATS Units

    10.2.5 In circumstances where an aircraft is experiencing an emergency or has declared minimum fuel, or in any other situation wherein the safety of the aircraft is not assured, the type of emergency and the circumstances experienced by the aircraft shall be reported by the transferring unit to the accepting unit and any other ATS unit that may be concerned with the flight and to the associated rescue coordination centres, if necessary.

Local Provisions

  • It should be noted that, in case a State decides not to implement the provisions of PANS-ATM, any significant difference between the procedures used in a State and the ICAO provisions should be published in the national AIP.

Your Attention Is Required

  • Note the subject and investigate the relevance in your operational environment.


© European Organisation for Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) November 2008. This alert is published by EUROCONTROL for information purposes. It may be copied in whole or in part, provided that EUROCONTROL is mentioned as the source and to the extent justified by the non-commercial use (not for sale). The information in this document may not be modified without prior written permission from EUROCONTROL. The use of the document is at the user’s sole risk and responsibility. EUROCONTROL expressly disclaim any and all warranties with respect to any content within the alert, express or implied.


SKYbrary Partners:

Safety knowledge contributed by: