What is a Mayday 7700 call? Distress signal from Qantas Flight 144 that startled Australia explained

What is a Mayday 7700 call? Distress signal from Qantas Flight 144 that startled Australia when its engine failed en route from Auckland to Sydney – explained

  • The Qantas flight was about halfway through its journey from Auckland
  • It was due to land at Sydney Airport at 3.28pm with an ambulance on site
  • The plane had descended to 20,000 feet – well below the planned altitude of 38,000 feet

A Qantas flight has landed safely in Sydney after pilots issued a distress signal when an engine failed – with a collective sigh of relief.

Dozens of ambulance vehicles sped to Sydney International Airport on Wednesday afternoon after QF144 from Auckland carrying 168 passengers made a Mayday 7700 call to air traffic control.

According to aviation expert Neil Hansford, an emergency call is made when the aircraft is threatened with serious and/or imminent danger and requires immediate assistance.

Once the call is made, air traffic controllers alert rescue, firefighting and emergency services with details of how to respond. They also provide support for pilots, he added.

Everyday situations can be an engine failure, pressure problems, other technical problems or a medical emergency.

The term mayday is an internationally recognized emergency or distress call used not only in aviation but also on ships or sometimes by rescue workers.

Flight radar indicated the flight, flying from Auckland to Sydney, is currently over the water

Flight radar indicated the flight, flying from Auckland to Sydney, is currently over the water

The Qantas flight approaching the airport. It appeared to land safely just before 3:30 p.m

The Qantas flight approaching the airport. It appeared to land safely just before 3:30 p.m

Meanwhile, air traffic controllers also use squawk codes, transponder codes used to identify aircraft in airspace.

Under certain circumstances, the specific code assigned to a flight may be changed.

A squawk code for a flight is switched to 7700 during incidents when an aircraft experiences an emergency.

This new number then appears on the screens of air traffic controllers who track the flight, along with vital information such as the aircraft’s speed and altitude.

This allows all air traffic controllers to easily see that the aircraft is in an emergency and needs appropriate assistance.

The pilot of QF144 sparked fears after making a mid-air mayday call halfway through the just over three-hour journey after suffering the engine failure.

The jet, a Boeing 737-800, has two engines but can still fly on just one.

By 3:01 p.m. the aircraft had descended to 20,000 feet – well below its planned altitude of 38,000 feet. However, it landed safely about 25 minutes later.

Rescue services at the scene at Sydney Airport after a Qantas flight made an emergency call

Ambulance services at the scene at Sydney Airport after a Qantas flight made an emergency call

After its safe landing, Qantas said the Mayday had been downgraded to a PAN – which stands for “assistance may be needed”.

More than 100,000 people watched the flight on Flight Radar as it approached Sydney.

Qantas is recognized as one of the safest airlines in the world without a fatal crash in more than 70 years.

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Bradford Betz

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