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Have you ever sent a mayday?

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Have you ever sent a mayday?

Old 16th May 2014, 21:02
  #1 (permalink)  
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Location: Oxford, UK
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Have you ever sent a mayday?

Couple of years ago, on my last check ride before handing in my ticket, the instructor questioned my priorities....my engine had just quit at 1,500 feet, what do you do now?

I said I would pick a field and land in it. He said no, first check for any obvious reason for the failure, fuel? mags, whatever, then transmit a mayday.

How is a mayday going to help me? my priority would be a good choice of field and concentrate on a good arrival.

Has anyone reading this ever sent a mayday? just asking....
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Old 16th May 2014, 21:18
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Two pans, one should have been a Mayday and was treated as such fortunately.

Why? Because the engine had started rough running, seemed likely to stop, and I was at 300ft just after taking off. So I needed the local emergency services to know, and I needed everybody out of my way.

It worked too.

But in the scenario you outlined - 1500ft - so basically 2 minutes to get everything sorted out, no nearby traffic, and nobody in a position to help me. No, definitely a low priority. I'm not totally convinced I'd waste much time at that height trying to restart the engine either.

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Old 16th May 2014, 21:35
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Mary YES

Flying as a co pilot at night in a Citation from Biggin Hill to Majorca! climbing out through 20,000 feet I looked at the German Captain and thought my eyes had gone funny.
his face was shimmering! Then I smelt it ! Thick acrid smoke which was streaming out of the vents and filling the cabin.
this got worse until you could hardly see the passengers in the back.
The stuff was dense and choking so on with the oxygen masks a mayday and a quick descent back to Biggin Hill.
we vented the Cabin because it was now almost impossible to see and were given a straight line over Gatwick and an uninterrupted descent.
It was pitch black when we landed at Biggin to be met by a group of fire engines.
The PAX were terrified and all my clothes stank of burning plastic.
The fault was found to be a fan motor which caught fire in the air circulation system. All good for the soul

I will also add an engine failure in a fairly new Seneca 4 at 300 feet and gross weight! Three rocker shafts sheared and realising if I pulled the prop lever back and stopped the engine I was not going to go anywhere fast but down.

So I kept one hand on the prop lever in case the unit went bang and used the little power from that engine to coax a climb.

Levelling at 800 feet the engine was shaking so badly I had to shut it down made a Mayday call and landed single engine.

Continental insisted the unit had been over boosted on takeoff to shear the rockers shafts like that until a PAX in the back showed a film he had taken of the takeoff with the engine gauges showing they were perfectly set on takeoff.

Continental then discovered the engine rocker shafts had been incorrectly torqued at manufacture and replaced the 100 hr unit with a new one within two weeks.
again all good for the soul

Many other instances where maybe I should have but didn't

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Old 16th May 2014, 21:45
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Yes. After the forced landing, simply to attract the attention of RFFS.
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Old 16th May 2014, 21:58
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No, but an emergency of a different kind, On an evening flight back from dinner at Fife airport I was told by the other half in no uncertain terms that we had to be home in time for Corrie starting as she had forgot to record it (possible equipment failure) upon reaching our home strip I was advised not to do the usual "buggering about" (overfly the field to view the windsock, fly the pattern etc,) due to the extreme urgency, upon landing it was suggested that there was to be no more "pissing around" (installing vent plugs, pitot cover and chalks) apparently they could wait till the morning.

All ended well with bums on the couch at 7:30 sharp.
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Old 16th May 2014, 22:09
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Yes. Started getting a rough running engine which I could not clear so I declared a pan whilst heading for the nearest airfield. The engine then got much worse, to the extent I could not maintain altitude, so I confirmed my field - I had picked one at the outset and then kept a dynamic plan as I headed for the airfield. Once I felt I had everything in hand and had the time I upgraded to a mayday. All ended happily but it quite clearly reinforced the old adage "aviate, navigate, communicate".

I would say the instructor has it wrong: set the conditions for walking away from the aircraft (pick your field and plan your approach and landing), fly your plan, then look to resolve the cause (if you can and have the time) and, finally, tell the outside world.

However, that was just what happened in my case. Your emergency might happen at a greater height where you may have the luxury of time to first try to resolve the cause (restart the engine, perhaps) and a plethora of fields to land in. You might decide therefore to seek a solution to the emergency, communicate and then pick your field. However, I would suggest the need to aviate first and throughout remains the overriding driver.

Last edited by HPMan; 16th May 2014 at 22:15. Reason: Further comment added
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Old 16th May 2014, 22:27
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Maydays are very useful. I wouldn't be scared to use one.

I've had two engine failures (fortunately in the overhead) . As soon as I declared the mayday all other traffic disappeared, I got to choose my approach without the worry of fitting into traffic and the fire truck is there to give you a lift home.

If you need help ask for it. No controller will ever get upset if you call a mayday then need to cancel it.

Where it fits in the priorities at 1500' is a matter of circumstance.
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Old 16th May 2014, 23:31
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Not a mayday, but on a partial engine failure off a runway with few land-ahead options I simply declared 'partial engine failure, returning to land immediate, 09L'. I couldn't hear the radio (despite the DC headset) due the misfiring engine, so just kept transmitting that in case someone else's transmission was blocking me.

The implied message was 'I'm in the sh1t and coming round for an immediate landing. It's MY runway, everyone else pi55 off'.

It must be added I only ever considered using the radio once I'd established we could (just) maintain height and had got the aeroplane low level close in downwind and stable for a '180 turn onto the numbers from maybe 250 feet' touchdown.

Aviate, navigate, communicate.

Off that same runway many years later another pilot (one I knew) had a total engine failure on take off. he 'communicated' (sent out a mayday) but didn't 'aviate' (i.e get the bleedin' nose down NOW).

He died and his passenger has life changing injuries. I wonder to this day why he pressed the xmit button rather than pushing the yoke forward to prevent the stall/spin that killed him. Not only did he 'stop flying the aeroplane', he did so in order to send a message which could not have been of any use whatsoever.

Maydays are great if you've first got the aeroplane stable (aviate navigate, communicate) and others may not be aware you might need rescuing from a wreck.
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Old 16th May 2014, 23:38
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Have you ever sent a mayday?

Very nearly - even keyed the PTT - before the engine spluttered back to life.

Hour building in CA north east of San Luis heading towards Yosemite there is a range of hills (felt like mountains). At 7500' which must've been 2000agl my engine stopped (c172). I will never forget that noise (or lack of) as long as I fly I'm sure. It's not like when the instructor pulls to idle as you do PFLs but you know it's there and you can still hear it.

First thought was that I needed new trousers. Second was maintain 65kts. Glance at Skydemon for glide range (amazing feature) to see if there were any airfields within range (of course there weren't). Turn downwind and towards lowering ground/valley. Full power, full rich, carb heat, still nothing. Keyed switch for mayday, noticed fuel selector not quite vertical on both, but slightly off towards right. Lined it up....said a little prayer.....after what felt like an hour but was probably just a few seconds the engine spluttered back to life.

The aircraft had been draining quicker from the left tank than the right so I had almost full right and about half in the left. I switched to right tank only. After about 30 mins it had evened out a bit so I switched back to both....or so I thought. The selector isn't so much one or the other but a graduation between the options. Turns out I'd not put it properly to both so after a couple of minutes using the fuel that was in the engine and lines the engine just quit.

Lesson learnt. New trousers purchased.
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Old 16th May 2014, 23:55
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A pan, pan once when oil pressure dropped to almost zero on right engine. Headed for nearest airport, but this was over New Mexico desert with not many around. Right engine still made power so kept it running, but was prepared to shut it down if it started misbehaving. Landed safely and it turned out to be some carbon stuck in the oil pressure relief valve.
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Old 17th May 2014, 01:50
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Done several practice pans, but thankfully never had the 'need' to call Mayday.
However, when I was controlling on LARS West:
Pilot 1: 'aircraft calling mayday say again' (I hadn't heard it)
Pilot 1: 'Farnborough G-ZZ reports he's had engine failure and has landed in a field north of Basingstoke'.
I took appropriate action including getting the reporting pilot to go and orbit over the last observed position of G-ZZ and getting a Farnborough based Lynx helicopter which happened to be nearby to go there and land to ensure everybody was all right. He then gave the two occupants a lift back to Blackbushe. I've always found helicopter pilots both civil and military are 100% co-operative in such situations.
10 years later:-
Pilot 2: Farnborough G-XX engine failure north of Basingstoke.
Me: G-XX is this a practice.
Pilot: Negative, Mayday Mayday Mayday G-XX engine failure north of Basingstoke.
No helicopters around so I got another aircraft from the same club who was on frequency to go to the site and report, but was able to maintain 2 - way contact with the aircraft which had engine failure.

The two engine failure aircraft were both AA5s from the same club at Blackbushe and the second one landed in exactly the same field that the first one landed in!!

Last edited by chevvron; 17th May 2014 at 05:09.
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Old 17th May 2014, 02:13
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Have you ever sent a mayday?

The first time I called mayday it was on May 1st, which in the UK is often referred to as May Day. I was the instructor in the back of a Hawk TMk1 and a bird (a red kite so they told me afterwards) put a large hole in the canopy when I was at 250' and 420 knots. It got very loud and quite cold but once we slowed down it wasn't so bad. The mayday came out once I'd already got myself heading towards my nearest diversion airfield. Quite uneventful from then on. The weird thing is I was almost glad it had happened. I always wanted to know how I'd handle the situation. Thankfully quite well. I remembered to take a deep breath so I sounded cool when I made the call on guard.
The second mayday was on behalf of a wingman who lost more of his canopy than I did in a very similar situation. He couldn't hear the radio so I did the talking for him.
That's it so far and now I've done it I'm in no rush to do it again!
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Old 17th May 2014, 05:01
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2nd solo, 300 feet after touch and go and lost a cylinder - possibly due to lead fouling. I found out that the engine had a plugs change earlier in the day. The school was first class so no quibbles with their engineering team who could not replicate the fault on the ground. I declared a Pan and the ATC / fire truck chaps were terrific.

Becalmed in a hot air balloon over railway lines with trains hurtling by at 125 mph beneath the basket. Adjacent to our position, we had power lines, a forest and a river with a mere 15% remaining on the last tank. There was no use in calling anyone so I didn't bother. Previously, I had done a burn and climb to 2,500 feet then descended which changed our location over the ground by about 30 feet. We eventually got it down on top of the railway embankment in an area 15 feet wide with a fence running up the middle and dropped the envelope in the trees.

Paraglider launch off a cliff above lake Annecy in France from a clearing a little wider than the wing. I caught a tip in a branch and spun into a tree, ending up clinging to the trunk above a 500 foot drop. My mates got me out and I had a Stella Artois event in the bar that night where we got very "refreshed". Money well spent.

Squeaky bum times !
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Old 17th May 2014, 06:30
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Yes - engine failure in circuit. Aviate navigate communicate. The mayday call isn't going to save you, your skill may. Only call once you've got the landing planned and and done an attempt at restart if there's time (and don't try that unless you really have got time). Mary - you're a glider pilot so of course your first thought is "where am I going to land?" which is as it should be.
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Old 17th May 2014, 06:59
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Couple of PANS - engine stopped on a dH82a during a stall turn and did not restart on the dive, sorted my field then put out the Pan AFTER I had the landing planned, definitely the way round to do it.Next was uncertain of position over Wales, in IMC and getting no VOR reception - headwind had increased from the forecast 40kts to 60!
My one Mayday was actually the FO calling it on taking a Swan through an A330 engine getting airborne from Glasgow, PAN would have been fine, but I have no problem with someone calling a Mayday instead, better that way round than Pan when it should be Mayday!
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Old 17th May 2014, 07:16
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Following an in flight engine failure on a light twin and then a PAN call I was on approach to an airfield, the tower controler had already asked for radio silence on a number of occasions, as I reached my single engine committal height the landing clearance was blocked by another transmission so I was forced to go around.

At that point I made a Mayday call, this and other requests from the controler did not have any effect on those who clearly felt that without being able to talk on the radio the wings would fall off.

Eventually I made an ICAO non complying call of " you lot F[email protected] well shut up this is a [email protected]&!? emergency" .......... That seemed to work for a while but just as I was about to land another one asked if it was alright to speak now ?

The interesting thing to note was that all the transmissions during the emergency came from one flying club, the other club on the field and the private owners did not say a word.
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Old 17th May 2014, 07:29
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Originally Posted by Bob Viking View Post
I remembered to take a deep breath so I sounded cool when I made the call
Forget all the other nonsense. I believe Bob has hit on the most important thing. Ever.
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Old 17th May 2014, 08:20
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Speaking as one who would have answered you on 243.0/121.5, I can only reiterate the old adage "Aviate - Navigate - Communicate". Bob V. is absolutely correct.
Yes the 'MAYDAY' call is essential to either, get you on the ground without hindrance, or, get the emergency services to your field of choice ASAP.
As said above, no sensible aviator is going to criticise you for calling MAYDAY and subsequently downgrading it as the situation resolves itself - least of all the guys on the ground doing their best to assist!
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Old 17th May 2014, 09:20
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I have to admit and I do not know if others experience the same but I feel really embarrassed saying "Mayday Mayday Mayday".

I remember with the smoke filled Citation incidence it had to be dragged out of me by the controller

My call started " Um we have a problem" Followed by the Controller asking the nature of the problem, then asking if I was declaring an emergency?

I don't know what it is with those words but I hate saying them!

would much prefer " XYZ is declaring a mayday" or even better " XYZ is declaring an emergency".

Maybe Mayday Mayday Mayday is to much like the films


Last edited by Pace; 17th May 2014 at 10:39.
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Old 17th May 2014, 11:03
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Yes ... Prior to a forced landing into a field.

I cancelled it when on the ground only to have a police helicopter land a few minutes later and the crew come over. I said I'd cancelled the call which they acknowledged but they said they were about to land at Deanland (nearest airfield) and refuel anyway ... so thought they'd just check I was ok. Nice of them but very embarrassing.

Mary ... as you will know. Aviate first communicate second. At 1500' put out a call once you have tried a restart and if that fails picked a field. Radio call is way down the priority list but worth making if you can do it without taking your mind off other things in a high stress situation. I would question an instructor who thought otherwise!


PS ... I know what you mean Pace. I think my call went along the lines of "Ummmm! Mayday (just once I think ... I may even have said Pan Pan rather than Mayday?) ... Shoreham, G-#### ummmm, engine failure near Deanland, errrr but big field below" .... The ground call to say I was ok was relayed by the police helicopter. The call wasn't text book for sure but I was concentrating on the landing by then and my memory of what I actually said has gone.

Last edited by shortstripper; 17th May 2014 at 11:10. Reason: to add the PS
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