May 1, 2012

May 1, 2012
May Day

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Tuesday and it is also the first day of May. I hope you are having a safe and great week so far. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

There has been the saying "May Day" as a sign of distress for many years. So where does this saying start?

Mayday is an emergency procedure word used internationally as a distress signal in voice procedure radio communications. It derives from the French venez m'aider, meaning "come help me".

It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency primarily by mariners and aviators but in some countries local organisations such as police forces, firefighters, and transportation organizations may also use the term. The call is always given three times in a row ("Mayday Mayday Mayday") to prevent mistaking it for some similar-sounding phrase under noisy conditions, and to distinguish an actual Mayday call from a message about a Mayday call.

Mayday calls

A mayday situation is one in which a vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Examples of "grave and imminent danger" in which a mayday call would be appropriate include fire, explosion or sinking.

Mayday calls can be made on any frequency, and when a mayday call is made no other radio traffic is permitted except to assist in the emergency. A mayday call may only be made when life or craft is in imminent danger of death or destruction. Mayday calls are made by radio, such as a ship or aircraft's VHF radio. Although a mayday call will be understood regardless of the radio frequency on which it is broadcast, first-line response organisations, such as coast guard and air traffic control, monitor designated channels: marine MF on 2182 kHz; marine VHF radio channel 16 (156.8 MHz); and airband frequencies of 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz. A mayday call is roughly equivalent of a Morse code SOS, or a telephone call to the emergency services. When they receive a mayday call the coast guard may launch lifeboats and helicopters to assist the ship that is in trouble. Other ships that are nearby may divert course to assist the vessel broadcasting the mayday.

Making a hoax mayday call is a criminal act in many countries because of the danger to the rescuers' lives that a search-and-rescue operation can create, the potential for real emergencies elsewhere, as well as the very high costs of such rescue efforts. For example, making a false distress call in the United States is a federal crime carrying sanctions of up to six years imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000. The coast guard can be contacted in situations that are not emergencies (out of fuel, etc.) by calling "Coastguard, Coastguard, Coastguard, this is (name of vessel)", on VHF channel 16. In many countries special training and a licence are required to use a mobile radio transmitter legally, although anyone may legally use one to summon help in a real emergency.

The recommended distress call format includes the word "mayday" spoken three times, followed by the vessel's name or call sign, also spoken three times, then "mayday" and the name or call sign again. Vital information, including the position, nature of the emergency, assistance required and the number of people on board, should follow. A typical message might be:

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is NONSUCH, NONSUCH, NONSUCH. MAYDAY, NONSUCH. Position 54 25 North 016 33 West. My boat is on fire and sinking. I require immediate assistance. Four people on board, are taking a lifeboat. MAYDAY NONSUCH, OVER."

If a mayday call cannot be sent because a radio is not available a variety of other distress signals and calls for help can be used. A mayday can be sent on behalf of one vessel by another, using a convention called a mayday relay (see below).

Civilian aircraft making a mayday call in United States airspace are encouraged to use the following format (omitting any portions as necessary for expediency or where they are irrelevant):

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY; (Name of station addressed); Aircraft callsign and type; Nature of emergency; Weather; Pilot's intentions and/or requests; Present position and heading, or if lost then last known position and heading and time when aircraft was at that position; Altitude or Flight level; Fuel remaining in minutes; Number of souls on board; Any other useful information.

Civilian aircraft in Europe are encouraged to use the following format:

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY; Name of station addressed; Aircraft callsign; Nature of emergency; Intentions of the pilot; Present position (including Altitude or Flight level); Pilot's qualifications; Any other useful information (number of souls on board.)

If unable to establish voice radio communications with air traffic control, aircraft wishing to declare an in-flight emergency should set their radar transponder (squawk) to code 7700. Mayday protocol summary

MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, This is (name of vessel repeated three times)
MAYDAY, MY POSITION IS (give your GPS latitude and longitude or compass bearing from a well known object)
I AM (state problem such as on fire, sinking, etc.) WITH (number of) PERSONS ON BOARD, I REQUIRE IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE


Frederick Mockford's Grave in East Sussex

The Mayday callsign was originated in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford (1897–1962). A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Mockford was asked to think of a word that would indicate distress and would easily be understood by all pilots and ground staff in an emergency. Since much of the traffic at the time was between Croydon and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, he proposed the word "Mayday" from the French m’aider. "Venez m'aider" means "come help me."

So now you know all about how May Day started! Hope you have a great and safe day.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab