Understanding ‘Mayday’ distress signal

2015-04-29 14:11

MAYDAY is an international radio distress signal used by ships and aircraft, although it may be used in a variety of other situations.

Procedure calls for the Mayday distress signal to be said three times in a row - Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! - so it won’t be mistaken for another word or phrase that sounds similar under noisy conditions. A typical distress call will start with Mayday being said three times, followed by the relevant information that potential rescuers would need, including type and identity of craft involved, nature of the emergency, location or last known location, current weather, fuel remaining, what type of help is needed and number of people in danger.

Mayday started as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948 and was the idea of Frederick Mockford, senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London. He came up with the idea for “mayday” because it sounded like the French word m’aider, which means “help me”. Sometimes a Mayday distress call is sent by one vessel on behalf of another vessel in danger. This is known as a Mayday relay which is sometimes necessary if the vessel in danger loses radio communication. If a Mayday call is repeated and not acknowledged, another vessel hearing the call may attempt to relay it again and again until help is reached. A Mayday call is not something to be taken lightly. In the United States, it’s illegal to make a fake distress call. Doing so can land you in jail for up to six years and subject you to a $250 000 fine

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