Why Is 'Mayday' the International Distress Call? - Deepstash
Why Is 'Mayday' the International Distress Call?

Why Is 'Mayday' the International Distress Call?


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Why Is 'Mayday' the International Distress Call?

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MayDay: The International Distress Call

  • Mayday is a derivative of the French word m'aider which means “Help me”, formally adopted by the U.S. as an official distress signal in 1927.
  • Airplane pilots, boat captains and emergency response personnel use the ‘MayDay’ distress code.
  • The signal started after World War I, when the normal SOS code that worked well in morse code, sounded confusing on the radio, as it could be misheard.


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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instructs the pilots to follow the exact emergency response which includes information on the station, aircraft call sign, type of emergency and current position.

The signal is used with caution and anyone who abuses the system can be jailed for ten years and fined heftily. Pilots usually repeat the word three times so the other transmissions that may mention mayday about the same emergency do not distract the listener.


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