Get Out Alive!
Most of us complete our piloting career without any ditching concerns. Others are not so lucky and unfortunately learn ditching procedures the hard way. Without any prior training or real-life lessons in ditching, it’s very difficult to understand why being inverted and underwater often leads to a traumatic experience. The physiological responses to impact followed by an immediate immersion in water, with a temperature many degrees colder than your nice warm cockpit is often totally overwhelming and lethal. Every year a number of pilots and their passengers find themselves totally unprepared and franticly searching for a door handle which was easily located only moments earlier.
Those who think swimming ability and diving experience will be sufficient to get them out of an aircraft after ditching will be amazed at how poorly they perform during the first few sessions in an egress simulator.
Here’s a quick list of things you may wish to think about when considering the possibility of ditching your aircraft.
Presuming you have enough warning prepare the cabin for impact with the water by:
- Tightening your seatbelts/harness
- Unlatching the cabin doors.
- Having passengers assume the brace position.
Once the airplane comes to a stop, it may be upside down. To orient yourself, stay seated and locate your exit. Then release your seatbelt or harness.
On average, it takes only 15 seconds for total panic to set in after a ditching once your face goes underwater in the event an exit is not immediately located.
If a door becomes jammed after water impact and the aircraft is completely flooded, try opening any hinged window available, last resort kick out the Plexiglas.
HOW MUCH TIME?
The time available before the aircraft sinks depends on the design and the damage incurred. Don’t think near-empty fuel tanks will assist your time on the surface.
Floatplane’s often do not sink after becoming inverted, which would allow it’s occupants to use the float bottoms for support. But don’t count on this, get into your PFD or into a life raft as soon as possible (or both). If still floating keels up, don’t even think about going back for your headset.
If the pilot isn’t wearing the PFD when ditching becomes imminent, he or she must remain in control of the aircraft until it comes to a stop. Stuff the PFD in your shirt or jacket to help ensure availability afterwards.
Avoid PFDs designed for recreational boaters. Instead carry inflatable PFD designed and approved for aviation since other types may prevent egress due to buoyancy. Don’t inflate PFD until you’re clear of the aircraft.
Any liferaft you carry should be certified and rated for more occupants than the aircraft can accommodate. It should be the first item to leave the aircraft and tethered to any occupant.
Consider adding and EPIRB or at least a portable ELT to your equipment even if only incidental over water flying is planned.
These are just a few suggestions to help aid you in a successful egress if required. For complete training it is suggested you contact AES and attend our S.A.F.E. training program.
Aviation Egress Systems home base is in Victoria, BC as well we travel the country teaching Egress training to both pilots and passengers. Bryan Webster has more than 11,000 hours and is currently flies a de Havilland Beaver on the West Coat of BC.
To learn more about his egress training, visit his web-site www.dunkyou.com or contact him at 250-704-6401.