Mayday (Canadian TV series)

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Mayday Air Disaster original logo.png
Also known as
Created by André Barro
Narrated by Stephen Bogaert for Canada and U.S.
Bill Ratner for the U.S. (Smithsonian Channel)
Jonathan Aris for Australia, Asia and Europe[notes 1]
David Bamber (Season 1 Narrator for Channel Five in UK only)
Country of origin Canada
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 17
No. of episodes 150 (list of episodes)
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) Cineflix Productions
Original network Discovery Channel Canada
National Geographic Channel
Original release 3 September 2003 (2003-09-03) – present
External links

Mayday, also known as Air Crash Investigation in Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Asia and some European countries, and Air Emergency and Air Disasters in the United States (both ended in 2008), is a Canadian documentary television program investigating air crashes, near-crashes, hijackings, bombings and other disasters. Mayday uses re-enactments and computer-generated imagery to reconstruct for its audiences the sequence of events leading up to each disaster. In addition, aviation experts, retired pilots and crash investigators are interviewed explaining how these emergencies came about, how they were investigated and how they could have been prevented. It premiered 3 September 2003 on Discovery Channel Canada.

Cineflix started production on 13 August 2002 (2002-08-13), with a CDN$2.5 million budget. Cineflix secured deals with France 5, the Discovery Channel, Canal D, TVNZ, the Seven Network, the Holland Media Group and the National Geographic Channel, to take Mayday to 144 countries and 26 languages. The series was received well by critics and nominated for a number of awards. Sharon Zupancic won a Gemini Award for her work on the Mayday episode, "Lockerbie Disaster". A UNSW senior lecturer, Raymond Lewis, conducted a study on teaching strategy loosely based on the series. Lewis's results indicated using the strategy had "a positive effect on learning outcomes."


The series features re-enactments, interviews, eyewitness testimony, computer-generated imagery, and in nearly all of the episodes, cockpit voice recordings to reconstruct the sequence of events to the audiences. Several passengers and crew members (whether they survived the incident or not) are picked and actors/actresses play the role of those passengers and crews throughout the flight, usually starting from boarding of the flight. The flight routines in the air traffic control, cockpit and cabin are recreated on screen starting from departure up to the moment of the emergency. At the moment of the emergency, external views of the aircraft from different angles are recreated to show the effect and what had happened to the aircraft. The responses and reactions of the passengers, crews and air traffic control personnel leading up to the eventual crash or emergency landing are then recreated. All the scenes in cockpit and air traffic control centres are recreated using the actual script obtained from the cockpit voice recorder of the aircraft and other recordings made at the time.

Throughout the episodes, the victims or relatives and friends of victims are interviewed adding some more information about the cases with their relatives.[1][2] In addition, aviation experts, retired pilots and investigators are interviewed on the evidence and explain how these emergencies came about and how they could have been prevented.[2]

Production and distribution[edit]

Cineflix started production for Mayday on 13 August 2002 (2002-08-13), with a CDN$2.5 million budget, after Channel Five commissioned the six-part one-hour series.[3] To keep the costs down, most of the production was kept at Cineflix's offices in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[4] While in production, the series was sold to France 5, Discovery Channel and Canal D.[5] On 2 June 2003 (2003-06-02), Cineflix announced that it had sold the series to TVNZ, the Seven Network and the Holland Media Group.[5] Later that year on October 10 (10-22), a month before the airing of the first season, Cineflix announced that it had secured a major international deal with National Geographic Channel to take Mayday to 144 countries and 26 languages.[6]

In 2011, Smithsonian Networks aired Season 5 renamed to Air Disasters, making it the first time in the United States that Mayday had aired on a channel other than National Geographic. On 25 January 2012, Cineflix Rights announced that it would be selling Seasons 8, 9 and 11 (23 episodes) to Smithsonian Networks.[7] On 28 March 2014, Cineflix Rights announced a deal with Smithsonian Networks to air seasons 3, 4 and 13 (34 episodes).[8]


As of 8 September 2017, a total of 140 episodes of Mayday have aired, including 5 Science of Disaster specials and 3 Crash Scene Investigation spin-offs, which do not examine aircraft crashes. As of October 2017, the "series breakdown" page on Cineflix's website lists a 18th season consisting of ten 60-minute episodes scheduled for release in 2018.[9]

Series Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 6 3 September 2003 (2003-09-03) 22 October 2003 (2003-10-22)
2 6 23 January 2005 (2005-01-23) 27 February 2005 (2005-02-27)
3 13 14 September 2005 (2005-09-14) 7 December 2005 (2005-12-07)
Spin-off 2005 (2005)
4 10 15 April 2007 (2007-04-15) 17 June 2007 (2007-06-17)
5 10 9 April 2008 (2008-04-09) 11 June 2008 (2008-06-11)
6 3 16 December 2007 (2007-12-16) 2 March 2008 (2008-03-02)
7 8 4 November 2009 (2009-11-04) 17 December 2009 (2009-12-17)
8 2 10 June 2009 (2009-06-10) 17 June 2009 (2009-06-17)
9 8 8 September 2010 (2010-09-08) 27 October 2010 (2010-10-27)
10 6 27 February 2011 (2011-02-27) 28 March 2011 (2011-03-28)
11 13 12 August 2011 (2011-08-12) 13 April 2012 (2012-04-13)
12 13 3 August 2012 (2012-08-03) 15 April 2013 (2013-04-15)
13 11 16 December 2013 (2013-12-16) 9 May 2014 (2014-05-09)
14 11 5 January 2015 (2015-01-05) 2 March 2015 (2015-03-02)
15 10 4 January 2016 (2016-01-04) 17 February 2016 (2016-02-17)
16 10 7 June 2016 (2016-06-07) 13 February 2017 (2017-02-13)
17 10[10] 20 February 2017 (2017-02-20) 3 October 2017 (2017-10-03)


The series has been received well by critics.[1][2] Paul Mavis from DVD Talk recommends Mayday as "Harrowing and surprisingly emotional" and continues with "Never exploitative, [Mayday] not only ratchets up the suspense with its well-done action scenes, it validates them by showing us the human side of these horrific air disasters."[1] Franck Tabouring from DVD Verdict said "It's a well-produced show with plenty of compelling information about tragic accidents, telling how some people survived and others didn't."[2]

University of New South Wales's senior lecturer, Raymond Lewis, conducted a study on teaching strategy loosely based on the series. The study was done with prospective pilots studying the "Aircraft Systems for Aviators" undergraduate course by including "study of air accidents and incidents associated with aircraft systems." The results of the study showed "the use of air accidents and incident scenarios had a positive effect on learning outcomes."[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Overall, the series was nominated for nine awards. It won two, both for film editing.

Year Nominated work Recipient(s) Category Result
Canadian Society of Cinematographers
2004 "Flying Blind" Michael Boland Best Cinematography in Docudrama Nominated
2008 "Final Approach" Damir I Chytil Nominated
"Gimli Glider" D. Gregor Hagey Nominated
2009 "Air India: Explosive Evidence" Paul Tolton Nominated
"Fatal Distraction" D. Gregor Hagey Nominated
Gemini Awards
2009 Mayday: Season 5 Simon Lloyd • Larry Bambrick • Katherine Buck • Alex Bystram •
Greg Lanning • Samantha Linton •
Glen Salzman • John Vandervelde
Best General/Human Interest Series Nominated
2010 "Lockerbie Disaster" Sharon Zupancic Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series Won
Canadian Screen Awards
2014 "Focused on Failure" Brian Eimer • Jessica Moniz •
Josh Vamos • Matt Vandersluys •
Michael Bonini • Nadia Awad
Best Sound in an Information/ Documentary or Lifestyle Program or Series Nominated
2015 "Into the Eye of the Storm" Dan Hawkes Best Picture Editing in a Factual Program or Series Won

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The UK broadcast of Season 1 was hosted on Channel Five and narrated by David Bamber

External links[edit]