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Underwater Egress Training

Those of us who have taken our cockpits for a splash are shocked not only by impact forces but also traumatized by the cold water and often lack of vision and subsequent disorientation.


July 18, 2007
By Ken Armstrong

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Those of us who have taken our cockpits for a splash are shocked not
only by impact forces but also traumatized by the cold water and often
lack of vision and subsequent disorientation. I was lucky. However,
many aviators and their passengers pay the ultimate price when their
flailing panic eventually leads to sublime rest. But it doesn't have to
be that way. My unhappiness with my first real dunking in chilly
Quamichan Lake, BC, motivated me to visit Victoriabased Underwater
Egress Ltd. Proprietor Bryan Webster is a high-time pilot who has
ridden a few aircraft down for unscheduled landings and has become
acutely aware of the challenges associated with survival during the
first few seconds after impact. I found the five-hour classroom and
pool course much more comprehensive than anticipated and learned a
great deal.

The first question Bryan asks his trainees is: "How many of you wear
a life jacket when flying over water?" I was the only client to raise a
hand. Some may think I'm a wuss, but let me explain my policy. If I
will be flying alone and beyond gliding distance of land and will not
have the opportunity to don a vest after an engine or control problem,
the vest is donned before takeoff. If I will be at altitudes that allow
me to glide to a safe landing spot or there is another pilot who can
take the controls, I will always have the vest within reach. Of course,
various problems could arise that would dictate the life jacket should
be worn at all times and I certainly respect anyone who chooses to wear
one constantly over water – and insists on passengers doing so. After
all, we are responsible for their safety.

Before taking the course, I anticipated that a ride in the cockpit
simulator dunk apparatus would qualify me. However, the pool portion of
the training is much more comprehensive. One takes a minimum of four
dunks with ever-increasing complexity, but I must make it abundantly
clear that safety procedures eliminate all risks from the operation. No
one has ever been injured during Canadian training due to the number of
safety personnel in and around the training pool. Pilot/crew members
who can't even swim could take this training – in fact, they should!
All scenarios have been thoroughly practised, allowing the students to
concentrate on procedures without fear.

 

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