Many years ago I was involved in a week of research into sea survival jointly funded by Plymouth poly and the Coastguard. One of the experiments was to take 30 ish undergrads, brief them on getting into a raft, inflate a raft 2 miles off shore and let them get into teams and try to get in. The only people who managed it were people with previous experience in sailing etc. There was a 100% failure from the untrained and inexperienced. Having watched this I find it very unlikely that your average 50 + overweight PPL with no training would get into a raft unless he as very lucky. I would not expect many to even get it out of an upturned aircraft with a sea running. If you are going to fly the Irish sea either get an immersion suit or go on a ditching course.
I have done quite a bit of single engine overwater flying (mostly warm water) so I have thought a bit about it. Most of the recent trips have been in a C172 3 up.
We decided not to bother with a liferaft. None of us are spring chickens so the possibility of getting in to it was going to be slim.
We of course had lifejackets and an ELT. We should probably have taken dye as well.
The most important thing was a serious discussion about egress. In a C172 the seat has to be forward for the rear seat passenger to leave and rearward for the front seaters. Therefore the rear seaters must leave first as they can't reach the seat adjustor. Furthermore, if the aircraft remains upright, in fact even if it doesn't, it will float substantially nose down. How will that affect moving the seat rearwards? Annother difficulty is on old C172s the seatbacks would fold nearly flat. Not so on the newer ones.
Now the single door on the Pipers doesn't seem so much of a problem.
The most important thing was a serious discussion about egress.
Excellent point and well executed.
Part of my maritime survival training was helicopter egress practice. Now helicopters have a strong tendency to flip upside down in a ditching. Which means you absolutely, positively will lose your bearings and have no clue whatsoever what is up, down, left or right, and where the emergency exit is. Furthermore, the cabin will be filled with bubbles, debris, oil and whatnot, so don't expect to see anything.
The trick is to ignore all this. Your seat will be bolted to the floor, and you will be strapped in your seat, so the emergency exit is still where it was before, in reference to your body and seat.
What you need to do is first clear the path to the emergency exit (which is normally your window, in an off-shore helicopter, so you open or eject the window), THEN you grab hold of the emergency exit (window sill or something) with one hand, THEN you unfasten your seat belt with the other. You then pull yourself towards the emergency exit and egress the aircraft.
I guess the same thing would apply to a C172. I expect that airframe to fill with water rapidly (especially once the doors are opened) so you need to be prepared for an underwater egress. That means that you will effectively be floating, more or less horizontally, in the cabin, once you released your seatbelt. And that means that the position of the front seats would not matter one bit, as you will simply float over the tops of the seats through the exit.
Too true! As a keen scuba diver I sometimes wonder if those pilots who are not used to the the sea close too ie either sailors or divers or watersport fanatics really appreciate what a real ditching would be like.
One minute your snug in your aircraft at 3000 feet looking down at what looks like a fairly flat surface covered with white splodges next your facing 15 to 30 foot walls of pure energy and foam. Not exaggerated as I have seen and heard many singles crossing the irish sea with those conditions below.
Ignorance is bliss but far removed from the initial shock of freezing salt water hitting your body to the point you cannot get your breath never mind think clearly!
There has to be preparation! Only cross large expanses with fairly calm seas! Try to cross high 8-10 K gives you more time to not only glide near some ship but to talk with ATC.
Do not take off an hour before darkness as no one will find you etc.
False security snug as a bug in a rug at 3000 feet is very different from reality when you hit that sea.
There was a 100% failure from the untrained and inexperienced.
I'm surprised it was that high but I guess it depends on the raft and how fit they are. The training I did (for shipping) was with 15 or so person rafts and people all in their 20s (the demographic for those working as customer services crew on a ship!). We all got in unaided (which was a course requirement) although it took some people a number of attempts. Those rafts included a ladder which sat below the water line (although only some people used it) but I would expect the large one to be harder to get into due to higher sides.
Agree though that the demographic for GA pilots to be some what different!
Walls of water is a slight exaggeration. While it can be true waves are often not as high as you might think crossing around north wales. I have sailed the Atlantic a few times and again contrary to expectation walls of water are very rare - undoubtedly there can be large swells with an equally large period between the swell but white top walls they are not. I don't suppose any are good for your health with regards a ditching but as I indicated earlier the outcome of ditching if you read the reports appear surprisingly good.
I would agree with the last poster - the problems of getting into a life raft are in my opinion also over done. I am not saying it is necessarily easy and the design of the raft is an important component. However a life raft is your best hope given that in reality I see almost no one climbing into immersion suites not least because of the cost, the lack of comfort and the need to supply each passenger with a suite. In fact a dinghy dry suit is a far better and more practical alternative but in both instances the clothing underneath are an equally important component in staying warm.
Some years ago I was at Oshkosh & was offered a ride in a small float plane. The take off began & I realised that something had gone wrong, in fact one float had delaminated & we went in at some speed. The aircraft nosed in & I found myself upside down & under water. I had never been on any survival course but was a regular swimmer. So extracting myself wasn't so difficult, once under water you are weightless & can swim out. Just follow the bubbles. It has made me more cautious when flying over water but it hasn't stopped me. Just take adequate precautions & remember the engine doesn't know it's flying over water.
I've done the Belfast -Liverpool route many times in a single, and I agree with the advice in the bove posts, especially re immersion suits & plb. one thing i would emphasise is to go high. There is a class D airway from iom to belfast wich you can access without an IR. I knew that I could always glide to land in the SR20 from FL100, which a typical PA28 can easily reach. I accept though that as a newly minted PPL the cloud cover would be an issue for most of the year. IOM to Wallasey is of course a different prospect due to the Class A. Once you are IMC capable crossing the Irish sea on top of an overcast is great fun with the Isle of Man no more than a ripple in the smooth white deck.