Let’s hope you never have to experience going through a crash as a pilot. But if you do, it’s important to handle it right. What do pilots say when crashing?

When pilots realize that their plane is going down, they’ll immediately get on the radio and say Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This will clear the radio of traffic and clutter and allow them to call in their emergency. Pilots might also say “Easy Victor” to warn the crew to prepare for an evacuation.

Arguably the single most important thing a pilot can say is to alert everyone on the radio that the plane is going down in the event of a crash. In this article, you’ll learn what pilots say over the radio when they’re crashing, other common things you might hear,who the pilots are talking to when they say it, what pilots can do in the event of a crash, and how many plane crashes there are per year.

Two of our highest priorities here at SkyTough are providing our readers with accurate information and promoting pilot safety. And since this article is about plane crashes, it’s vital to us that we provide the most helpful content we can. So everything you read below has been confirmed via our own expertise, input from other experts in the aviation industry, and widely accepted industry standards. If you’re ever in a plane crash, you’ll know what to do after this.

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What Do Pilots Say If The Plane Is Going Down?

Pilots seem to have their own foreign language at times, with all sorts of different words and phrases that average people wouldn’t understand. But it’s important that pilots and Air Traffic Control (ATC) understand. But even if you’re brand new to flying you’re just starting to learn to talk like a pilot, there is one word that you’ve likely heard before.


And that’s because it’s a word that’s been used for the last century to immediately indicate an emergency. The typical way of saying it is to call it three times in a row — Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!. And as soon as that call is heard over the radio, all radio chatter shuts down immediately so that the person sending out the distress signal can have a clear channel to describe their emergency.

In other cases, you might hear a pilot or flight attendent use the phrase “Easy Victor”. This is one that you don’t want to hear while you’re flying, as it usually means that the plane is going to crash. This phrase is used by pilots in a much more subtle way than Mayday. It is usually said to warn the crew of the crash and let them know to begin preparing for an evacuation without alarming the passengers like using Mayday would.

What Does “Mayday” Really Mean?

Mayday is one of the oldest terms in the book, used in aviation, maritime activities, and more. It’s more or less a universal distress signal that indicates there is a serious emergency, such as a boat sinking or in this case, a plane crashing. It’s such a well-known term, that pretty much any pilot, no matter how experienced, will know that if they hear it called over the radio, they are to cut all communication themselves and let the pilot with the emergency have a clear channel.

The famous call Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! is just about the only phrase that can be said on the radio to immediately cease all other conversations and ensure that the pilot making the call has a clear line of communication. This is necessary to give the pilot, their crew, and their passengers the best chance possible since they’ll have an all-access pass to the radio and with ATC on the other end.

Why Will A Pilot Say “Easy Victor” Instead Of Mayday?

Typically heard on commercial flights, and even then only very rarely, the phrase “Easy Victor” usually insinuates that the plane is going down. But why would they even say this? It’s not like the passengers will understand what that means and have any idea what’s going on. Well, that’s kind of the whole point of saying “Easy Victor”.

Pilots will say this phrase more to the crew and the flight attendants than to the passengers themselves. It’s a way to alert the crew that the plane is going down and they need to begin preparing for an evacuation. The entire point of this phrase is to not alert the passengers because the pilots and crew need to be on their A-game during a time of crisis. And they don’t want to have hundreds of passengers freaking out the entire time while they’re getting ready!

Who Are Pilots Radioing When The Plane Is Crashing?

As you now know, when pilots are going down they’ll grab the radio and say Mayday! Over the radio to command radio silence on that frequency. When a pilot calls out this distress signal, the station they’re calling into is typically the ATC or other agency that’s providing the pilot with air traffic services in that area, on the frequency that the pilot is using at the time.

If the pilot was not in previous communication with ATC and therefore not receiving any air traffic services, the distress signal will go to the ATC facility or other agency whose area the pilot is flying in. If for whatever reason the call is not received and the station doesn’t respond, the distress signal may be broadcast over the radio, calling out to any station or tower in the area that can help.

The point of calling ATC in the event of a crash is to receive assistance in any way that they can offer. The station that handles the distress signal will offer any help they can and coordinate search and rescue operations with the necessary people in the area that the plane is going down in. Without calling in the distress signal to ATC, it would leave the pilot on their own during the crash, greatly reducing the chances of survival and landing as safely as possible.

What Else Does A Pilot Do While Crashing?

The weight of the responsibility on a pilot’s shoulders is never more evident than it is during an emergency. And no emergencies are more stressful and more difficult to manage than knowing that the plane is going to crash. Because at that moment, the pilot is pretty much solely responsible for themselves, the crew, the passengers, the aircraft, and anyone or anything on the ground where they’ll be crash landing.

So the most important things that the pilot must do if they know the plane is going down is to remain calm, keep their wits about them, and do everything in their power to save everything mentioned above. Pilots are required to follow Standard Operating Procedures at all times, even in the event of a crash. So during this hectic time, the pilots must reach for the manual and start going through emergency procedures and follow them.

While the plane is going down, the first thing that a pilot will want to do (except radioing ATC) is attempt to level the airplane. Either to save it entirely or buy themselves more time, leveling the airplane is of utmost importance. If the airplane is not responding to the pilot’s input, they should let go of all controls and let them go to neutral. An airplane will tend to level itself out due to design.

If the pilot does still have control, they should run through all the procedures outlined in the manual to try to level the aircraft. Once level, they can then start working with ATC on the next plan. If a crash landing is inevitable, ATC will help guide the pilot to the safest possible point to set it down. They’ll help find a wide-open area with a flat surface, such as a field or even a large body of water.

The key to surviving a plane crash is to stay calm and stay in constant communication with ATC. Modern aircraft have all sorts of failsafe operations built-in that will help level the aircraft and have the safest crash landing possible. But remaining calm and talking it through with ATC gives the pilot the best chance of saving everyone on board.


Joe Haygood

Joe Haygood

After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.

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