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Did You Know? Why Mayday is used in an emergency

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If a ship is sinking or a airplane is in distress, the captain or pilot is likely to radio Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! to get help. However, it has nothing to do with the month of May. Or any word in the English language.

Mayday is the word used internationally to make a distress call in radio communications. It signals a life-threatening emergency, usually on a ship or a plane, but it may be used in other situations.

In an emergency, the word is traditionally repeated three times…. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday to distinguish it from any similar sounding phrases in a noisy situation.

The word Mayday came from the French word m’aider which means help me.

In 1923, Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, was asked to come up with a word that would indicate an emergency for pilots and ground staff.

At the time, most of the air traffic he dealt with was between London and Paris, so he chose Mayday because of its similar sound to m’aider.

Four years later, the International Radiotelegraph convention of Washington made Mayday the official voice distress call.


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