By ALAN SORUM, For General Aviation News
Part of the magic of flying is that we can easily cross the vast spaces that separate us. The speed at which we bridge these distances can blind us to understanding their true inaccessibility. In the north and much of the west, there are places where, once a pilot inadvertently puts an airplane on the ground, you aren’t leaving without some outside help.
Airplanes have a phenomenal safety record and small aircraft can absorb some surprising damage in a forced landing, allowing pilots and passengers to walk away from a mishap. Technology has improved the ability of emergency locator beacons to pinpoint the position of an airplane and notify potential rescuers. The Coast Guard and Air Force work together effectively every day to safely resolve search and rescue cases.
Regardless of how well these factors work together to protect you, it will still take time for help to arrive and your actions are key to surviving an unplanned stay. Pilots should always be prepared for an unplanned stay in a remote location. There are seven simple steps that you can take to help stay alive after an accident until a rescue is complete.
We are fortunate in Alaska to have the services of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) available. As an instructor for AMSEA, I have seen the value of the organization’s hands-on approach to safety training. Using a network of more than 800 instructors and 400 classroom teachers, AMSEA offers its educational programs across the United States and Canada.
The Seven Steps to Survival, developed by AMSEA, is an easy way to remember a sequence of steps that can help anyone who becomes stranded in a remote location survive.
THE SEVEN STEPS
- Recognition: Realize that your circumstances have changed and you must face new challenges. Recognize that your situation has been altered and it is time to think like a survivor.
- Inventory: Take time to consider your available resources and the issues that you may face. Take stock of your personal abilities, physical condition, supplies and tools on hand, and any immediate needs. Ask yourself “Is anyone is hurt? Is it safe to stay where I’m at? What resources do I have at hand?”
- Shelter: You need to stay out of the weather and conserve heat. How will you be protected from the elements? Remember clothing is your most immediate form of shelter.
- Signals: Identify ways to help rescuers find you. How can you attract attention and be seen? Learn how to use your emergency locator transmitter (ELT) and ensure it’s been manually activated. Consider purchasing a GPS-equipped 406MHz model if you haven’t upgraded your old ELT yet — and be sure to register it.
- Water: Secure a safe source of drinking water. You should drink two to four quarts of clean water each day to prevent dehydration.
- Food: Eating isn’t an immediate survival need. Know what food is safe to eat and don’t eat without water also being available.
- Play: Studies of survival situations show that having a positive attitude is key to success. It’s important to play and stay busy while waiting for help. People survive often because they believe that they will survive.
Safety training is one way that pilots can start thinking about preparedness and being ready for the unexpected. Preparedness can be seen in simple actions. I had a flight instructor who always reminded students to wear sturdy shoes — the lesson being that there can be unplanned stops with any trip.
If you have a chance, take a safety course. Safety training helps you be a better pilot and provides you with the confidence it takes during the times when you will need to overcome unexpected challenges to your survival.