by Air Cdre (Retd) Kaiser Tufail
Those of you who thought it was May (as in May Day) and vest (as in life vest), can blame a famous Brooklyn lass for getting your spellings muddled up. Just how a life preserver came to be known as Mae West is an interesting piece for aviators.
Mae West was an American actress who had earned fame for portrayal of frank sensuality in her movies. Some of the oldies who have seen her on screen would swear that she had her adipose tissue in the right places. That she was well endowed was not lost on Allied airmen in the Second World War; they appropriately named the cuddly life preserver after the screen siren.
Mae West’s dazzling presence continued to be felt till late, when she died in 1980 at the ripe old age of 88. Her name continues to live on in more ways than one. Many an aviator’s life has been saved by the device named after the glamorous lady. Next time you don the “Life Preserver – Underarm”, it won’t be a bad idea to bless the dame (unless your patriotic fervour for Firdaus is overwhelming)!
This short article appeared in PAF's Flight Safety Newsletter, issue no: 1/1999.