Where does “Mayday” come from?
Mayday is a Distress call used by Aviators and Marine vessels to transmit a radio message communicating one is in serious trouble and needs immediate help! In the aviation world, a Mayday call is accompanied with an emergency transponder code of 7700. This way Air traffic and other aircraft know the transmitter is in a serious emergency, e.g Decompression. A distress call as such is triggered by saying the word ‘MAYDAY’ three times followed by who you are (Call-sign) and what your problem and intention may be. A typical example is as follows, “Mayday Mayday Mayday, Super-Jet 123 engine fire, requesting immediate descent and diversion into London Heathrow.”
Mayday is a very serious situation and one should not fake or jeopardise it’s priority in any way. In the United States, making a fake distress call as such could cause you imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.
The origins of the word MAYDAY? It started as an international distress call in 1923. It was made official in 1948. It was the idea of Frederick Mockford, who was a 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."
In Aviation Pilots can call Mayday to gain immediate help and attention. ATC will then assist the Pilots by clearing the airspace for them and giving the highest priority for arrival into an emergency airport for a safe landing. Once a Mayday has been logged, then that airport and assigned landing runway is closed to everyone else until the distressed aircraft comes to a safe landing.
This is just a brief explanation on what mayday is and its origins and I hope it gives you a little insight into it especially if you're from a non Aviation field or background. We hope any aviators out there never get to make this call.