PREPARE TO SURVIVE!
By Chuck McGill
Throughout your initial
and recurrent training pilot training, you are
taught and re-taught how to deal with aircraft
emergencies. The Prime Directive is to get the
aircraft on the ground as intact as possible with
minimal damage to the occupants.
Now that you have the
aircraft on the ground and stopped, how are you
going to survive? How are you going to assist in
being rescued in a minimal amount of time? Common
sense, a few inexpensive and lightweight items, and
current technology are key to survival and rescue.
When flying out for the
weekend $100 hamburger, it is very easy to be far
from civilization in a very short period of time,
even if flying a J-3 Cub or an Aeronca Champ. Even
though you were just flying ?over the hill? to the
next airport, were you prepared in the event
something unplanned occurred?
Any aircraft departing
on a short cross country flight should have at least
minimal survival equipment on board. A survival kit
should suit the terrain of the flight and the number
of persons on board. A survival kit need not be
elaborate, large, or heavy, and a small backpack can
be used to hold everything.
As you know,
survivability requires Shelter, Water and Food.
Rescue usually requires signaling.
Simple and inexpensive things
such as lawn and leaf bags can provide shelter in
many ways, such as a makeshift rain suit, a
sunshade, a ground cloth, and even a method for
collecting and storing water. Always carry some type
of jacket and head covering. Think about how complex
or how simple you want to be with your shelter
equipment, and pack appropriately. I think any
survival kit should have at least a dozen large lawn
and leaf bags in it.
WATER: You should always carry water
in your airplane. It is the simplest of survival
items, and one without which the body cannot
function. Most folks just carry bottled water, but
you can also purchase water in sealed survival
pouches to be left in the airplane for long periods
of time. Water can be purified through an
inexpensive survival straw, but that may not help if
you are in the middle of the desert.
FOOD: You don't
have to be elaborate with food items. You could
purchase military MRE meals, or dehydrated food from
a camping store. But, for the weekend flyer, perhaps
a jar of peanut butter and a handful of Power Bars
will fill the bill. Sufficient food takes little
space and can be stored for long periods of time.
MEDICATION: Be sure you carry the
medications that might be needed for you or your
passengers on every flight, in case you have
unintended delays. Band aids, aspirin, tape, and a
few other medical items you deem appropriate are of
great value in a survival situation, and you
probably already have plenty in your home. Small
medical kits are available on line from a variety of
SIGNALING: Technology makes this
fairly easy. Your cell phone won?t work everywhere,
but take it with you. It might work when you need
it. Be sure the cell phone is turned off during the
flight so you don?t wear the battery down. If you
have a satellite phone, take it with you. A PLB
(personal locator beacon) is a handy thing to have.
There is now an inexpensive PLB available that fits
in your shirt pocket! It sells for $300 or less,
operates on 406 MHz and contains and transmits your
location using GPS technology. If you have a
handheld GPS in the airplane, it will provide your
coordinates if you can use your cell phone or
handheld radio to talk to others. Remember that
commercial airliners and military aircraft guard
121.5 at all times. And, they fly high, so even if
you are in a valley you may be able to transmit to
them in the blind. Be sure you carry spare batteries
for all your portable equipment. Something as simple
as a shiny space blanket, available in every camping
store for less than $5, makes an excellent signaling
BASIC ITEMS: A Swiss Army knife or
Leatherman Tool, a strong LED flashlight, waterproof
matches, trash bags, water, a roll of duct tape and
some nylon rope. A waterproof aircraft survival
manual created by the U.S. Air Force is available on
line for less than $15 . An
excellent survival guide is available in a deck of
card format . It is small,
waterproof and easy to carry. The value of these
survival manuals is that they help you focus on the
important issues at hand, as well as providing
survival information you would not otherwise know.
You can easily and
inexpensively put together a basic survival kit that
weighs ten pounds or less. A trip to the local
Wal-Mart camping department can just about fill up
your survival kit.
Of course you need to
check your survival kit at regular intervals and
replace time limited items such as food and
batteries. I go through mine each year when I remove
it from the aircraft during the annual.
Master CFI, CFII, MEI
Chuck McGill is a
retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and Vietnam
veteran. He received extensive training in sea
survival, jungle survival, desert survival and cold
weather survival during his twenty two years of