Surviving the water

Plan, prepare and be aware of your situation was the message given out to those taking underwater escape training March 16 at the Terrace Aquatic Centre.

Plan,  prepare and be aware of your situation was the message given out to those taking underwater escape training March 16 at the Terrace Aquatic Centre.

The six-hour course was put on by John and Jackie Heiler from Pro Aviation, and was attended by 12 people from the surrounding area.

The main focus of the course was escaping an aircraft should an unexpected landing force a pilot to “ditch” on water.

Underwater escape training provides air crew and passengers the skills to escape an aircraft when a forced landing has caused the vehicle to rapidly take on water.

John said often times during a ditch landing, pilot  and  passengers are unharmed from the initial impact.

He said it’s when water begins to rush in that people begin to panic and loose their ability to think clearly and escape the aircraft.

“It is a mental challenge more than it is a physical challenge,” John said, adding, “It can be as simple of mentally preparing your escape route.”

According to John something as small as a twisted seat belt can send someone into panic mode, and prevent them from properly assessing the situation.

The course offered a classroom component as well as practical training.

Along with under water exit strategies, students learned sea survival techniques, such as dealing with hypothermia, and open water survival.

The practical aspect of the course took place in the pool. To start training off, students jumped into the pool fully clothed and manually inflated their own life vests.

They next learned how to flip and board an emergency life raft while keeping and eye out for other swimmers unable to help themselves.

After this students took turns in an underwater egress trainer, a mechanism built like the inside of a cockpit to simulate what a real underwater exit would feel like.

Heiler said during a ditch landing on water a person can lose their gravitational point of reference as well as the ability to see clearly as water filling into the aircraft will limit visibility.

To simulate this, students had their eyes covered and were flipped, so when they made their exit they were completely submerged in water as well as upside down.

Mike Murphy was a student in the course and is a fisheries officer based out of Smithers B.C.

He took the course as a requirement for his job.

“We spend a lot of time driving up and down the highways, a lot of time in boats or flying around, so its a required course,” Murphy said.

He added the course was very effective, and especially enjoyed the underwater exit training.

“When you’re blindfolded and upside down that’s your calmest time,” he said.

According to John, there’s been a growing trend in businesses training their staff for instances like these.

“A lot of people in the industry around here know of someone or if not themselves have been involved in airplane accidents or incidents,” he said.

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