No- it’s not your Friday night pizza order.
Pan Pan Pan is an internationally recognized distress call from a pilot indicating that they are dealing with an urgent but *not yet* life threatening situation which requires immediate assistance from someone on the ground.
An example would be:
Pilot – “Pan Pan Pan flight 233 requesting an immediate course change and return to airport”
Controller- “flight 233 what is the nature of your situation at this time?”
Pilot – “we have lost power on 1 of our 2 engines and are dealing with a possible fuel starvation issue”
Controller- “are you declaring an emergency at this time?”
Pilot – “not at this time however require vectors for landing on runway 25 L”
Controller – “copy that, turn left heading 030, cleared for straight in approach to runway 25 L”. Traffic has been cleared – advise if additional assistance required”
Best case scenario is that the flight crew draws on training and experience, performs a single engine landing without incident, and everyone walks away good as new albeit inconvenienced.
On occasion however – best case scenario is out of reach which is when the situation calls for the life threatening distress call “Mayday Mayday Mayday”.
Things have escalated in the cockpit - they’re running on fumes – instruments are beginning to fail – and the remaining engine is operating at 50 % power.
A catastrophic incident looms large in the windscreen.
With Covid at the controls, airlines around the world issued a PAN PAN PAN back in March 2020.
Although a situation of unknown proportion was beginning to curtail operations, airlines felt that for the time being they could “hold their own”.
When it became more readily apparent as things dragged on that “time was running out” – a Mayday call was made.
Which other than some wage subsidy support, the call has seemingly gone unanswered.
With airlines currently in a high speed dive toward terrain.
And at the moment of impact becomes a recovery rather than a rescue mission.
The National Airlines Council Of Canada estimates that approximately 630,000 employees are directly involved in the air transport, tourism and related appendages in Canada and represent close to 3.2% of Canada’s GDP.
And close to 5% of Canada’s pre-pandemic full time work force.
With approximately 93% of airline activity currently at a standstill, the Mayday distress call is understandable.
Without silver birds moving people and commodities across the country and around the world – we remain mired in quicksand.
I can well understand and agree that our first priority is to get a handle on the devastating spread of Covid-19.
And the indiscriminate and unchecked movement of hoards of non essential leisure travellers does not necessarily fit well with those goals.
But unlike restaurants who can (with “challenges”) switch to take out, retailers who can move into “on-line” and a host of other services that can either go virtual or continue on with modifications in “essential” roles, you can’t move a passenger from point A to point B without actually putting them on an aircraft.
Globally, pre-departure testing 72 hours prior to flight time is quickly becoming the norm with the United States the latest to require negative test results prior to boarding a flight.
In addition, a 72 hour prior test is required prior to boarding the flight to come home.
Accordingly, the travel slump has deepened given that many ports of exit simply do not have readily available facilities to comply with these testing requirements.
But given that a passenger can go for the test Wednesday, head out to a Freedom March Thursday, a large house gathering on Friday and then armed with Wednesday’s negative result on Saturday – board the flight having provided a document that says “safe to fly”.
I have to wonder if we should be looking harder at a more timely departure airport 30 minute turnaround testing?
We need to get the global aviation industry moving.
Without doing so we risk an unsurvivable plunge into some extremely hostile terrain.
And to our newly appointed Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra - *Mayday-Mayday-Mayday*
Adios until next Time