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- 1 Start with a Definition
- 2 More facts please
- 3 Tone of Voice
- 4 "m'aidez" vs "m'aider"
- 5 MAYDAY!
- 6 Advice against use
- 7 History := Bullshit?
- 8 "Seelonce feenee" etc
- 9 Flight 93 Mayday
- 10 Definition
- 11 Lifeboat picture is off topic here
- 12 Plagiarism anyone?
- 13 Requested move
- 14 Unsourced Material
- 15 Speedbird
- 16 History -- Doubtful Claim
Start with a Definition
Could I plead that the article needs a conventional definition from first principles as its opening, rather than diving straight into "if you're in danger, put out a Mayday".
More facts please
This page could do with more factual information, along the lines of pointers to and quotes from the "Official" bodies which have designated the word as reserved on comms channels: these might be any of:
- National legislation
- Aviation Authorities (FAA, CAA, JAA &c)
- Should be possible to point to source docs - I have them for CAA & JAA somewhere
- Maritime organisations
In addition, it would be useful to clarify the business of channel numbers & frequencies. I think (but could be wrong) this article has set out from a limited US Maritime perspective. Is Channel 16 a sufficient description of the channel; is it used worldwide? Does channel 16 have meaning in aviation, or should we be citing a frequency? Are there any substitutes for Mayday when voice comms die (e.g. clicking the Send button to form SOS?)
- Maritime VHF channels are standardised worldwide, hence that part is not specific to the US and "Channel 16" is the worldwide distress channel. Civil Aeronautical VHF frequencies are also standardised worldwide and 121.5Mhz is the distress frequency. In addition there is an unused "guard" band around the frequency from 121 to 122 Mhz. The official body that has designated the word as a distress signal is the [International Telecommunications Union]. Roger 18:25, 1 December 2007 (UTC)
Tone of Voice
I agree that this entry should give clear direct and unabiguous advice on how to make a mayday. It needs to avoid hyperbole and crap examples "use pan if man has fallen overboard and is not being eaten by sharks".
--Tagishsimon 16:25, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Well, sure, it's good to start with a definition. Edit away.
But, you said in your note to the changes you made 'removed all mild hysteria, hyperbole and repetition. This is an encyclopedea, not an emergency situation'.
I'm feeling offended by your suggestion that my tone was one of hysteria. I don't agree that it was.
By the way, I've made a mayday call from a sinking ship; this is what made me think it might be a good idea to add instructions for making a call to the wikipedia entry.
And I'd say that, if we're giving instructions on how to do it, then for anyone reading those instructions, they *do* need to relate directly to an emergency situation. Because there's no other situation in which a mayday call is appropriate.
(I'm not suggesting that anyone's going to be reading from the web at the time of an emergency, but that we may be the place they've learnt how to do it).
OK, I'm guessing it's this paragraph that you think is OTT:
You can make a 'Mayday' call to get help from a boat or aircraft in a serious life-threatening emergency, such as fire, explosion or sinking.
If you transmit a mayday call as a joke, you are committing a very serious crime - you could be put in prison for six years and fined $250,000. You are also putting the lives of your rescuers in serious danger. '
I think that, if we're going to give instructions on how to make a mayday call, it's only responsible to make it very clear - particularly to kids, who do put Coastguard lives at risk with fake maydays - when a mayday call is not appropriate.
My intentions were to make it very clear when an emergency call is appropriate, and when it isn't.
Hence the examples of emergencies. The official 'grave and imminent' is fine as an academic definition, but basically fire and sinking are the two main times that such a call is appropriate. So I don't agree that this is hyperbole.
On the other issues:
- More facts: Yes, we absolutely need them. The article really covers US/UK maritime only. Channel 16 is afaik an adequate description for VHF, but there are other radio frequencies. If radio is unavailable then a different distress signal would be appropriate.
- Tone of voice - agreed. Although in fact the MOB (man-overboard) situation is a relevant example because in theory I believe this should be a pan-pan - but most people would make a mayday, and the Coastguard understand this. 
Best, --257.47b.9½.-19 17:05, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)
> I'm feeling offended by your suggestion
Apologies to you for that. I didn't mean to cause offence, but I guess I was being bold to the point of pugnaciousness in stating my reaction to the page as was.
I've done all the hacking on this page I'm going to do for today; please feel free to take it on to the next version if you please. (You have - good edits! --Tagishsimon 17:33, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC))
I note we agree very much more than we disagree; I'm happy to work with you to see that clear examples are elucidated on the page; and I'll come back and read your comments more slowly later in the weekend, but now I must go and have a real life for a few hours :)
best wishes --Tagishsimon 17:30, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Thanks Tagishsimon, I'm sure we can work up a useful article here.
One interesting angle might be the future of the Mayday call - increasingly an automated system (DSC) is being used, which has the advantage that you just have to press a single button (it's integrated with GPS so the position is transmitted too), but the disadvantage that as large ships increasingly switch to DSC there's going to be less people listening on Channel 16.
I'm going back to RL in a few minutes as well...
Best wishes, --257.47b.9½.-19 17:48, 3 Apr 2004 (UTC)
"m'aidez" vs "m'aider"
The English version of the article is saying that "mayday" comes from "m'aidez", but the French one says it comes from "m'aider", as in "Venez m'aider". Personally, I don't know which is correct.
Bob A 06:57, 2 September 2005 (UTC)
The English version says " ... m'aidez (the infinitive form of ...". Either "m'aidez" should be "m'aider", or "infinitive" should be "imperative" (and vice versâ later on).
Well, I believe that issue is now over after my 'addition' of the 'origin of the word' section
Klidge 21:25, 13 April 2006 (UTC)
"m'aidez" is not really imperative: "aidez-moi" is. The only sense a french speaking person makes of "m'aidez" is in the form "vous m'aidez" which is present tense "you're helping me". The meaning of "I need help" in french would be either "aidez-moi" or "il faut m'aider". The only one of which sounds like "mayday" is the infinitive form "m'aider". 15:27 27 June 2007
- I just removed the "m'aidez" from the etymology, and I hope no one puts it back. It is bad French and false etymology. Languagehat (talk) 14:37, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Judging by the above comments the etymology is all nonsense, apparently just made up from 'common knowledge' and linguistic inference. Etymology is not required to be grammatical or logical, just factual. If no facts exist, this should be stated. Moreover, what reference supports that it was mispronounced by specifically British sailors? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 19:05, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
I am French and I am not sure that Mayday is not used in France. If anyone is sure, he'll help by suppressing the sentence "It takes no more sense in French[...]" etc... at the last sentence of the "Origin" part please!
-END OF TRANSMISSION-
- Do you mean it isn't used in everyday conversation? Because it's an international distress signal. --Zagsa 02:09, 6 July 2006 (UTC)
Advice against use
I removed the following unsourced addition:
"The emergency code word MAYDAY should only be used aboard a vessel or aircraft where there may be imminent loss of life. Using it otherwise can endanger the lives of emergency responders tens or hundreds of miles or kilometers away, because helicopters and aircraft will respond to a mayday call with limited fuel supplies and risk crashing in order to pinpoint the caller's location. This has caused fatal crashes several times in open-ocean and in the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness."
While there are widespread warnings against using the "MAYDAY" call where there is no emergency, generally in situations of doubt were a person is unsure whether there is an emergency people are encouraged to call. e.g.  Absent an official source for this statement, I believe the article has more than enough cautions on misuse.--agr 13:50, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
History := Bullshit?
Mayday is, of course, from the french m'aidez...but "history" gives an implausible story about it being from a ship sinking on May Day, and a guy trying to do a Remember the Alamo/Lusitania sort of thing. Is he full of crap? --Kaz 14:40, 1 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes. This is pure folk entomology.
"Seelonce feenee" etc
Is there a reason the Silence calls are given in English spelling of French words? Surely, given these aren't English words (unlike Mayday or Pan[-Pan]), we should list them in the original French and then give a prounciation guide?
It just looks rather hackneyed to me using nonsense words like "Seelonce feenee", rather than just Silence fini in French. Unless they're international codewords that are genuinely spelt like that in English? — OwenBlacker (Talk) 14:34, 17 January 2008 (UTC)
- My VHF Marine Radio book anglisizes it with "Seelonce fini". Billscottbob (talk) 18:34, 17 January 2008 (UTC)
Flight 93 Mayday
VegitaU has added an audio file that I think is a very bad example of a Mayday radio call. It appears to involve a few people speaking at once then somebody in the background shouting, almost screaming, "Mayday! Mayday!" and nothing else. This may have been what happened on that unfortunate flightdeck, but it is a far cry from what thousands of radio operators a year are taught: to select the emergency calling channel, push 'transmit' and say, in a clear speaking voice, something like "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is ..., at position ... with xy persons on board. We have ... problem and request immediate assistance". Can we either do without sensationalist soundbites, or find something more helpful to the reading public's view of how trained professionals generally behave in emergency situations? --Nigelj (talk) 22:24, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
- Just trying to help. I'm not familiar with how a "standard" mayday call sounds like, but I just wanted to add an example of what one Mayday call actually sounded like. If there's a free-version of a proper call (from, say, the Coast Guard or Merchant Marine websites), feel free to upload them. -- Veggy (talk) 22:39, 5 September 2008 (UTC)
Seelonce Distress is not in use anymore. If a station is disturbin the distress traffic any station (which is the station in distress, the station leading the distress traffic as well as stations following the distress traffic), shall call out with the word Seelonce Mayday.(eab) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 05:34, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
It is used to signal a life-threatening emergency by many groups, such as police forces, pilots, firefighters, and transportation organisations.
Instead of this life, it should be made something like "It is used to signal a emergency requiring immediate response by many groups, such as police forces, pilots, firefighters, and transportation organisations.
A short line below this section could state that this differs it from Pan-pan. It is to be stated that emergencies need to be called correctly to ensure that the people who are most urgently need to be helped get that kind of attention. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 184.108.40.206 (talk) 08:26, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
"Emergency" implies imminent, irreversible harm that must be attended to immediately. As insensitive as this may sound, there is also a point at which the financial impact of losing a community resource warrants consideration as an "emergency". So, an emergency is either (by definition) "life-threatening" which would make the use of both terms redundant, or the article's definition recognizes that an "emergency" isn't always "life-threatening". A call initiates triage. After triage, the call was either emergent, made in error, or results in law enforcement. --Kernel.package (talk) 19:33, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
The article topic is about a type of emergency. Therefore, reference to non-emergent use of Mayday do not belong here should be removed. It isn't about the Coast Guard, so what Coast Guard does does not belong here. Any statement about what the Coast Guard does should be limited to the article about the Coast Guard. Coast Guard should definitely NOT be contacted to handle an out-of-fuel situation. The nearest Harbor Master (marina) is the point-of-contact for anything that is not emergent. --Kernel.package (talk) 19:33, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
"Grave and imminent" danger is a synonymous with "emergency". Use of multiple terms to mean the same thing usually interferes with understanding. Instances where analagous terms are mentioned in order to provide a frame of reference should be made in one location in order to emphasize clarity. ("Life threatening" is a subset, according to the previous paragraph). --Kernel.package (talk) 19:33, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
To clarify first comments (from July 2009): "Mayday" is a request to render aid, generally made to an agency (When aid is needed a Mayday is usually made to anyone who can help). "Pan-Pan" is an agency-to-agency call. --Kernel.package (talk) 19:33, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Lifeboat picture is off topic here
It doesn't show a Mayday call. It only shows something superficialy related to Mayday calls. We could as well depict a sinking ship with the caption "This ship is sinking [link]. It probably has been sending a mayday already" 220.127.116.11 (talk) 19:29, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
Since when is it ok to copy and paste a sentence from another wikipedia article into another article? What happened to originality? Just look at the first sentence under Pan-Pan, then go to the wikipedia page for Pan-Pan. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 18.104.22.168 (talk) 14:15, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
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:
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):
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
On the docymentary MayDay (I think of Discovery Channel Canada) I heard the word Speedbird when a commercial plane in the UK did an emergency landing. What do you know about this? Is it the name/sign for British Airways or is it an emergency landing word? 688dim (talk) 12:06, 1 June 2012 (UTC)
History -- Doubtful Claim
During the early days of post and telegraph services, French was the accepted language for international communications purposes. That is why, to this day, we write "Par Avion" on airmail letters.
Other examples include "pan" as a distress call meaning breakdown, "brume" meaning mist, "grèle" meaning hail, and "fume" meaning smoke. For that matter, the word "post" itself comes from French.
That an Englishman "invented" the mayday callsign is highly unlikely. More likely, he transliterated "m'aider" for English-speaking pilots and radio operators.