by Yasmina Soria Platt
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2020 issue
I recently participated in Survival Systems USA’s Aviation Survival and Egress Training (ASET) 3 course in Groton, Connecticut, where we learned how to survive an unsuccessful water landing. In their words, the “accelerated program addressed the risks associated with frequent travel over or near water by providing pilots, aircrew, and passengers with preflight, inflight, and post aircraft ditching knowledge and survival skills, including use of Emergency Breathing Devices (EBDs).”
“Ditching, ditching, ditching…” is what I heard all night for a few nights after the class, as I was dreaming about all the scenarios and procedures we had performed.
It was nothing like watching Bear Grylls while sitting on a couch in the comfort of my own home… It was one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences (best with some recurrent training to keep the skills fresh though) you hope you never actually need to use. But one is better off with the training than without it!
We had roughly four hours of ground and four hours of pool practice. During ground, the instructor taught us some physiology concepts and we discussed everything we were going to do in the pool, learned best techniques for bracing, went through procedures and tips for exiting the aircraft, heard about lessons learned from their ongoing research and development (such as breathing techniques, clearing techniques, and disorientation), talked about survival equipment, etc.
During the second portion, after passing a written exam, we did a number of “dunking” runs with different:
– Aircraft types (airplane vs helicopter).
– Seats (different seat types, left vs right, pilot vs passenger).
– Seat belt types (four and five-point harnesses).
– Door/window types (different handles, different shapes, etc.).
– Locations within the aircraft (which had different layouts, obstacles, number of seats, etc.).
– Environmental conditions (day time vs nighttime, and good weather vs bad weather).
– Position angles (up to a full upside-down position).
We did them in the training chair (Shallow Water Egress Trainer or SWET, as they call it) first, and then moved to the Modular Egress Training Simulator (METS). We did them exiting through our closest exit first and then simulating if our closest exit was not available (locked, jammed, etc.) and had to go across the aircraft to another exit. We did them holding our breath first, and then did the more difficult ones with compressed air.
Additionally, they showed us what a life raft usually comes with, how to open it, how to get in and out of it based on the number of people available, etc., and how to get hoisted out of a helicopter using a basket and a winch with a harness.
The excitement never stopped. You can read more about what I learned in the training in a blog I have written. Visit www.airtrails.weebly.com and click on “Other.” More specifically, I list the procedures we followed during every submersion, highlight the most important things I learned, and describe some of the preconceptions I had going into the training and what I actually found.
The training was honestly invaluable. I highly recommend that everyone (especially seaplane pilots and those flying over open/large bodies of water) take it.
In addition to learning the material and practicing real-world survival scenarios, I also learned about myself and overcame some fears. I am confident that I am now more likely to survive an otherwise unlikely and very unfortunate accident.
For additional information contact Survival Systems USA, Inc., 144 Tower Avenue, Groton CT 06340: 860-405-0002, 888-386-5371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I close, I want to give BIG props to the Whirly-Girls and Survival Systems for giving me the opportunity to take this training and for just simply being amazing!
You know the phrase… “a pilot is always learning” and, as my dad would say, knowledge doesn’t occupy space; it’s the best investment one can make.
What’s your next training going to be? Survival? Flight review? High-altitude chamber? Another rating (an instrument rating is especially good!)? A higher certificate?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Yasmina Soria Platt has been with the international airport planning and development consulting firm AECOM since 2016. She also writes an aviation travel blog called “Air Trails” (www.airtrails.weebly.com), in addition to articles on pilot destinations for Midwest Flyer Magazine. Pilots can locate articles Yasmina has written by going to www.MidwestFlyer.com and typing in her name in the search box.