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-   -   Ditching and Sea Survival (https://www.pprune.org/private-flying/586666-ditching-sea-survival.html)

The Old Fat One 14th Nov 2016 06:31

TOFO, remember that incident?
Yeah vaguely...I remember the first bit, didn't remember the outcome though. Lot of funny and not so funny stories at survival school. I still recall the classically good looking female interrogator and the look of utter disdain I got when I tried to chat her up in the mess.

Happy days.

Interesting reading the thread on PLBs...seems the whole subject is in focus at the moment, which has got to be good thing.

9 lives 14th Nov 2016 15:00

The person who teaches the underwater egress course which both BPF and I have taken, is himself an underwater egress crash survivor in his youth. This seems to be his inspiration, and rightly so.

Those who have not taken the course, just won't get it until they do. I had an inkling, during the several times I had to swim into inverted floatplanes during their recovery. When I took the coarse, I was a complete convert.

For those who are unconvinced, or lack easy access to an underwater egress course, I suggest the following, just to get the sense of what we're talking about:

On a very dark night, take your buddy to the airport. Climb into your aircraft, but upside down, so your head is on the floor and your legs are up or beside the seat back (it's uncomfortable, but the avionics tech people do it, so you can too). Latch the seatbelt across your waist. Turn out all lights, have your buddy close, latch, and then gently block the door. Your buddy tells you to hold your breath, and five seconds later yells at you "get out!, get out now!", while you find and open the seatbelt, unlatch the door, gently force the door against your buddy's slight effort at resistance, and feel your way out of the plane. Once your entire body is outside the aircraft, you can take a breath. Doing the forgoing will be easier than an undewater egress, as you will not be cold and wet, and water will not be floating you around inside the cabin.

If you fly a low wing RG, you have a chance of ditching, and remaining erect. Otherwise, if ditching is a risk for you, so is being upside down in a plane underwater, you'd better have a plan for yourself, and your passengers....

DownWest 14th Nov 2016 16:42

Cutting off the cuffs
CG quote:
When the big day came and he ejected over (I think) the North Sea, he got out safely, cleared his chute, but forgot the leg seals. He died of exposure due to wicking up the socks and onto his bunny suit. The shock TOFO refers too is real, and even in drills. He'd be alive if he had respected his kit over his comfort: end quote.
I was told that one by an RAF winchman, but in the early 70s.

Back then, I used to join a client to hop over to Le Touquet for cheap booze and tax free fuel. The approved LA channels across were at 3.500 & 1500 ft, so one had very little time at the low alt if things stopped. We wore the LJs and kept the dinghy in the cabin, not the hold.

I sail boats and have been in cold water a few times. One I won't forget, was a 400mt or so swim in the Atlantic in March (the boat was wind driven faster than I could swim) jeans, boots and thick pull over with waterproofs. LJ was mouth inflation. Lessons learned: Extremely difficult to inflate the LJ in choppy water, virtually impossible to get rid of excess clothing, even the boots. By the time I realised that I could not catch up, my clothes were pretty waterlogged and I was struggling to stay up. I then inflated the LJ, which then forces you to swim on your back. I really don't want to do that again.:sad:

FlyingOfficerKite 25th Aug 2017 15:30

It's a sad fact, but all the PPLs in our Group seem to think wearing a life jacket (of the less than 100 kind) and carrying a dinghy (in the 'back') somehow provides 'magical' protection in the event of a ditching around the UK.

Comments such as 'the engine doesn't know it's over water' lead these naive individuals into a false sense of security without ever considering many of the salient points raised in this article such as: panic, injury, hypothermia, ability to swim and chance of rescue (in time).

I promised my wife years ago I would never fly over the sea in a single.

What are the chances of an engine failure over the sea? Well I've never had an engine failure of any kind in over 40 years of flying.

However, the outcome if you do is likely to be death. You don't expect to die when you go out in your car if the engine fails. If the engine fails over land during daytime VFR you are trained to react and carry out a forced landing.

I've never had any training in ditching, either as a PPL or as a commercial pilot, other than swimming and getting into a dinghy in a warm, calm swimming pool. Not really the preparation you would need to survive a ditching in a choppy, cold sea just after the trauma of surviving a crash and possible injury and shock.

Trouble is no matter how hard you try as an instructor and examiner, the same 'it'll never happen to me' attitude prevails.

There probably is no evidence to suggest that there have been any more incidents over the sea than over the land.

Trouble is if your engine does quit the survival rate over land is probably well above 50%, whereas that over the sea is not much above 0%.

Placing your destiny in a 40 year old engine is not something I'm willing to do.

Gertrude the Wombat 25th Aug 2017 17:54

Crossing the channel at its narrowest point should, according to the book, enable gliding to land. (What I have to admit I haven't worked out is whether one would reach land with enough height to clear the cliffs.)

And "it'll never happen to me" is the only practical response to the risk of a non-trivial fire other than not flying at all.

Romeo Tango 25th Aug 2017 19:49

For very unlikely risks it almost certainly won't happen to me.

I try to increase my chances by looking after the aircraft, having plenty of fuel, a life jacket and a dingy but I accept that they may not save me.

As I have said before the sight of Greenland coming over the horizon on a clear day is well worth the very slight chance of death.

If someone else does not want to do it, that's fine, stay at home.

.... actually I see that I said it before in this thread .... apologies .... though what I said still stands

Flyingmac 25th Aug 2017 20:05

Originally Posted by Romeo Tango (Post 9872910)

If someone else does not want to do it, that's fine, stay at home.

Well said. Still, it's heartening to see such genuine concern from the more risk-averse amongst us. Thank you all.:)

LowNSlow 26th Aug 2017 12:58

Romeo Tango I think your risk taking is applaudable as you have assessed the risk, appreciate and respect it and take the appropriate measures to try to ensure survival if the odds do unfortunately turn against you.

I think the OP is pointing out the consequences of over water flight that a lot of pilots do not take into account and, if they did have some appropriate training, might not take out-of-gliding-range-from-land flight so lightly especially low level. In the dim and distant past I have flown at low level over the Irish Sea (on both sides) but I was always within 500yds of the beach as I have done the North Sea induction course for offshore workers and know that escape from an inverted aircraft in cold water is so disoritenting and downright scary that I don't want my hobby flying to put me in that position again.

Romeo Tango 26th Aug 2017 15:24

I think the OP is pointing out the consequences of over water flight that a lot of pilots do not take into account and, if they did have some appropriate training, might not take out-of-gliding-range-from-land flight so lightly especially low level.
I would say that the low number of deaths at sea due to engine failure in SEP shows some combination of the following:
1. It is VERY unlikely to happen
2. People are frightened enough of the consequences to avoid the risk
3. Pilots are sensible and prepared when they do it.

Frankly I think it's mostly 1.

SpannerInTheWerks 26th Aug 2017 22:17

RT I think you're probably right.

To be honest how many singles fly over the sea each year and how many have problems - virtually none.

If it's going to happen it's going to happen and I don't think the best survival equipment in the World is guaranteed to help you.

You pays your money and you takes your chance.

abgd 27th Aug 2017 05:57

Trouble is if your does quit the survival rate over land is probably well above 50%, whereas that over the sea is not much above 0%.

It's rather higher than 0% - perhaps not in a storm whilst flying the Atlantic. But in uk coastal waters with a lifejacket, plb and liferaft/dry suit your chanced are reasonable.

Romeo Tango 27th Aug 2017 08:59

I seem to remember that the SAR people reckon to pick up well over half of those who ditch mid Atlantic.
Traditionally the way to die when crossing the Atlantic in a light aircraft is bad weather at a destination and not having fuel to go anywhere else. Things are better now with many more airfields in Greenland.

The Old Fat One 27th Aug 2017 12:12

TBC, I completely concur with RT's philosophy towards risk, which is as I read it...

assess risk
mitigate risk
carry out the task.

Which is fundamentally the exact approach to risk which the vast majority of professional aviators will follow all their working lives, and it is sad that a significant number of leisure flyers do not follow this philosophy.

In this instance, the task in question appears to be life fulfilling...

As I have said before the sight of Greenland coming over the horizon on a clear day is well worth the very slight chance of death.
...which is as worthy as any motivation derived from filthy lucre :)

Indeed, it is my motivation exactly when I take to the hills.

The reason I write on this topic is not to be a killjoy. It is to counteract the b****s & and b*****t one finds on this subject from people that know no more than what they have read somewhere, with the experience and knowledge of a trained pro, who has spent a fair bit of time upside down, inside out in the oggin.

What people do with that information, is of course entirely their own choice.

toodle pip

MFC_Fly 27th Aug 2017 16:20

Originally Posted by The Old Fat One (Post 9569406)
Ever sat in survival dinghy for two hours in sea state four reeking of vomit and rubber.

Yes, I have. And if you were a CSRO up there until 2003 it is quite possible that the vomit you could smell would have been mine :ok:

BoeingBoy 28th Aug 2017 09:06

After forty seven years of flying which has mostly avoided flight over water in SEP's I had reason to visit friends abroad. Whilst not comfortable with the idea I figured that the statistical chances of silence settling in on the last 70 miles of a 270 mile trip were about the same as having a car accident driving to the airfield.

As previously mentioned. Once risk has been assessed then it should be mitigated as much as possible before being undertaken so I set about sourcing a raft, flares, marker dye, specialist food and water along with water proof bags for the phones, multi tool, space blankets (to double as radar reflectors) and making sure the first aid kit was part of the ditching kit and then spent several days researching videos and reading rather harrowing tales of survival...........and I was only going to Jersey!

Which brings me to a more type specific question.

Where do you carry a liferaft in a PA28 or any low wing one door aircraft?

I have a Survival Equipment Inc TSO approved four person raft (Type II) along with a grab bag for the survival kit.

The best solution I have come up with is to stow the raft on the floor behind the front passenger seat with a bungee cord (using caribiners each end) attached between the chair leg and inflation handle so that my wife can open the door, roll right, kneel on the walkway and use the seat back for support as she moves it forward enough to extract the raft and hurl it backwards before pulling the final notch to inflate just aft of the wing.

I follow and lift the grab bag from the rear seat lifting it over the seat belt (which has been restraining it) and throw it into the raft before joining her.
We have practiced this blindfolded and fully realize that we are still hoping for miracles but as both of us are ex-airline crew used to SEP drills and procedures we feel we have done our best bar doing a full inverted dunking course (which my wife did many years ago)

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Romeo Tango 28th Aug 2017 11:03

IMHO having more than one item that you need to get out of the aircraft is asking for trouble. Any survival equipment you need on/in water should be in the dinghy or attached to your person. I have the ELT attached to me/pax and the dinghy on the back seat. If there is a passenger he hugs the dinghy on the way down.

If there is a grab bag perhaps this contains items that would be nice to have but are less essential at sea.

BoeingBoy 28th Aug 2017 11:32

I agree that having the grab bag separate from the dinghy is not ideal but the weight of the bag is quite high and when you consider that the dinghy pack is capable of floating before inflation I didn't want to jeapardise that. Also my wife is not that strong and with lifting the bag from the floor behind the seat it would have hindered her to have to lift the grab bag along with it.

Some of the advice online suggested that for coastal waters the priorities were to exit the plane, board the raft and fire up the PLB. Frankly after that everything is a bonus.

I forgot to mention that like you, I had the PLB attached to my vest.

RatherBeFlying 28th Aug 2017 15:50

Me, I'd go for the immersion suit. It's difficult to leave behind when you're wearing it. That gives you usually enough hours for SAR to find a live body, especially if the PLB is on your person.

Aviation immersion suits are expensive; suits for the surfing and kayak folks might be adequate for a lower price.

A raft is a bonus, but there's lots of ditching stories where they don't make it into the raft.

Do check the marine forecast for water temperature, wind and wave height.

blueandwhite 28th Aug 2017 20:48

Originally Posted by FlyingOfficerKite (Post 9872725)

Trouble is if your engine does quit the survival rate over land is probably well above 50%, whereas that over the sea is not much above 0%.


This was quote in one of the mags recently. They had the decency to retract when it was pointed out what a load of tosh it was. In real live there is a very good chance of survival, with a life jacket and protection from the cold if needed.

Jonzarno 28th Aug 2017 20:53

Where do you carry a liferaft in a PA28 or any low wing one door aircraft?
Mine is a Cirrus SR22.

If I am on my own: I keep the life raft and an emergency grab bag secured in the front passenger seat with the seat belt.

If I have one passenger, I keep these items on the back seats with the life raft diagonally across from me and the grab bag across from my front seat passenger so that I can grab and deploy the life raft.

If I have more than one passenger, I delegate the back seat passenger (or the bigger / stronger if there are two of them) to hand the life raft to me and to manage the grab bag.

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