Prepared? Lifejackets.

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PilotDAR
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Prepared? Lifejackets.

#1 Post by PilotDAR » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:48 am

So, the flight you’re about to fly has a risk of a water landing; this may be because it actually is a floatplane operation, or maybe that a portion of the flight will be over water, or with a water landing being the only practical escape (flying the shoreline of a city). You know in your heart, that entering the water is possible during that flight, are you prepared?

Lifejackets: Yup, got ‘em. They’re in plastic bags in the seat pocket behind you. Hmmm, if you’re being inundated with a gurgling mass of dark cold water, and thinking about how to get out, will you even think about searching behind you for a lifejacket? Could you find it, and take it with you? If you got out with it, could you don and inflate it, while struggling to remain afloat in the mean time?

Wait, the person you were flying with is just over there, and looks like they are struggling in the water, can you help them too? Oh, now you realize that though you’re out of the plane, you’re a lot more injured than you realize – your shoulder is broken, and your arm is of little use, your ankles are broken, you cannot swim – it’s getting more complicated…

But, you were prepared, you were already wearing the lifejacket while you were flying, so it went out the door with you – excellent! Do you recall how to inflate it? Your cell phone, to call for help, darn, it’s in your pocket, and soaked….

Recently, to my instant horror, I found myself floating beside the plane I had just been flying in, which was now sinking. I was calling out to my fellow pilot, as I could not see him. I had not exited the plane, I had been ejected through the windshield. I was wearing my life jacket, as I always do when water flying. My cell phone was in a waterproof bag, clipped to the life jacket, so when I was ready, and floating with stability, I could call for help.

Well, exiting through the windshield had not been an element of my planning. The life jacket was torn (as was I), and the cell phone pouch ripped off. While floating (well, sinking), I had trouble finding the inflate tabs, and my injured arm refused to assist. The manual inflation tube was perfectly positioned, and my right arm worked, so I blew breaths in to inflate. I did not realize that the lifejacket was ripped, but happily, it held enough air, that I could see the yellow pillow form at my shoulder. That modest amount of buoyant air saved my life. Then I passed out. Happily, I later learned that my fellow pilot was much less injured than I, had inflated the life jacket he was wearing, and was rescued with me.

I have the most brief recollection of a person I know telling me I’ll be alright, while hearing the sound of an outboard motor. I recall a glimpse of a fellow firefighter (I’m a volunteer firefighter in the place of the accident) telling me it’ll be alright, as he helped lift me out of the boat. One more momentary memory of another of my fellow fire fighters telling me it will be alright, while riding in the ambulance. Three days later, I came to, in critical ICU, with my family all around me, telling me how close I’d come medically to not making it. I know how close I came buoyantly to not making it!
And my phone? My wife called it for nearly two days. The waterproof case held, as it rung, and took a message, until finally the battery went flat.

So, my advice is consider your risks, and skills – if you’re flying over water, are you prepared to suddenly be in it? Injured? Needing to also assist your fellow flier? Have you practiced with a life jacket in the water? Can you exit the plane in the dark, upside down? If you chose to not wear the life jacket, can you find it, and take it with you, while rushing out in a panic? When I took the dunker course, the purpose of one exercise was to grab the lifejacket on the way out. With all the mental planning I had done, and single purpose to performing that simple task, three of four times, I left the inverted, submerged cockpit without out the life jacket – fail!

Prepare for emergencies, they don’t always give you much warning! The difference between my being rescued by boat, or being searched by police divers was my wearing my lifejacket, and managing to make the best of it, even damaged.

My advice for you from my life lesson five weeks ago…..
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#2 Post by cdnpilot77 » Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:08 am

Wow....what an event that must have been. I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say, I'm really glad you took your own advice! We're extremely happy to be reading these insights rather than an obituary!
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#3 Post by JasonE » Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:48 am

Thanks sharing Jim!

Doing a water crossing next week (Cape Breton to NL). Life jackets will be on, although not the nice comfy ones....After I got them home and out of the package I wish I spent more money. Don't be cheap, buy something good quality and comfy to wear so you'll actually wear it.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#4 Post by photofly » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:00 am

I did Bryan (the dunker guy's) training course on escaping ditched aircraft. One of the things he makes you practice is putting on an airline style life jacket in the water. Something I didn't know originally is that they're designed to work even before the waist belt is fastened. The vest, once inflated, has enough grip around your neck to keep your head out of the water and to prevent your head slipping back through.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#5 Post by CpnCrunch » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:43 am

Any idea why the seatbelts broke? Not installed properly? Or just old?
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#6 Post by PilotDAR » Fri Aug 18, 2017 5:47 pm

No idea about seat belts, other than I did not undo mine to escape, I was already out.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#7 Post by pdw » Sat Aug 19, 2017 4:20 pm

PilotDAR wrote:When I took the dunker course, the purpose of one exercise was to grab the lifejacket on the way out. With all the mental planning I had done, and single purpose to performing that simple task, three of four times, I left the inverted, submerged cockpit without out the life jacket – fail!

Prepare for emergencies, they don’t always give you much warning! The difference between my being rescued by boat, or being searched by police divers was my wearing my lifejacket, and managing to make the best of it, even damaged.

My advice for you from my life lesson five weeks ago…..
How long have you been ensuring the proper use of lifejackets for you and your passengers as you were on this day five weeks ago ? Was it more recent, after the training ?
You know in your heart, that entering the water is possible during that flight, are you prepared ?
I've considered this very question as 90% of our flight to the GTA is over water, and very cold from Dec to April. "No worries, life jackets are easy to use " ... is so easy to say.

I'm very thankful that you are back with us, and for the sharing of your experience in the past and on this thread.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#8 Post by waterdog » Mon Aug 21, 2017 2:48 pm

Wow, I cannot imagine how terrifying that experience was! Prior to your accident I was guilty of keeping my lifejacket close, but it wasn't on, even when flying with an instructor doing water work and he had his on. After hearing about your accident, myself and everyone in the plane has their lifejackets on and done up if we are over water. Unfortunately I bought the uncomfortable ones when I got them. So, future high quality Bravo lifejackets are in order. Until then, I don't care how hot it is, the vinyl, uncomfortable, hot, lifejacket is on. Lesson learned.

Glad to hear from you Jim.

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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#9 Post by AirFrame » Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:09 am

Wow, thanks for the writeup. Glad to hear you're out and on the mend. Out of curiosity, what kind of airplane was this?

One of the first things I bought when I was learning to fly was a good Mustang life jacket. Because I spent that money on one that was compact enough to wear comfortably, I always wore one anytime I was going to fly near or over water... It's a habit. If I only had access to an airline-style lifejacket, I'm not sure I would wear it as often... I always found them flappy and uncomfortable.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#10 Post by Chris M » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:29 am

One of the reasons I don't take the shoreline route through Toronto. Engine chokes, you're going swimming.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#11 Post by New_PIC » Wed Aug 23, 2017 2:43 pm

PilotDAR, I'm glad that you're able to tell us about it yourself! I have taken the dunker course even though I live on the prairies. Getting some decent life jackets is on my wish list too, for when the plane inevitably gets further from home base and encounters some bigger water. Thanks for refreshing that resolve.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#12 Post by pdw » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:12 am

New_PIC wrote:Getting some decent life jackets is on my wish list too, for when the plane inevitably gets further from home base and encounters some bigger water.
Where do you get the "decent life jackets" that are best suited for aviation in all respects ? ... ie like PilotDAR's, that still blew up enough in the life or death situation to work when partly ripped; ... not hot , not bulky , and can wear them under a suit (where discreet is preferred).
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#13 Post by Spafloats2.0 » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:04 pm

For the most part, lifejackets for aircraft must be TSO'd. The lifejackets available that are constant use jackets most often used are made by Switlik or Eastern Aero Marine.

I highly recommend Steve Hallam at Capital Survival in Ottawa. He services what he sells!

Remember, the airline style vests in a pouch are not constant wear jackets. Once they are removed from the envelope they are good for one use and need to be sent in for inspection and a fresh maintenance release tag.

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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#14 Post by CpnCrunch » Thu Aug 24, 2017 6:25 pm

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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#15 Post by waterdog » Thu Aug 24, 2017 7:00 pm

CpnCrunch wrote:http://www.mustangsurvival.com/recreati ... country=23

(make sure you get a manual one).
The problem is that these don't meet the regs, so you still need the other ones in the plane to be compliant.
I've got my eyes on the one my float instructor used, it does meet TSO-C13f, so its all you need. The one I am looking at upgrading to is the EAM Bravo preserver, it meets the standards, has an indefinite life but does need to be inspected every two years to stay legal. The down side is that they run around $300, the upside is they are a lot less expensive then some of the others.

I've found them at aircraft spruce, but haven't seen them go on sale, ever.

Aircraft spruce also carry's a jacket called the, Revere Comfort Max, it looks a good candidate to compete with the mustang products but it is not TSO approved so not technically legal. Its listed for $106.

Switlik makes some great looking vests, but they are expensive and don't meet the magical TSO-C13f standards.

But as CpnCrunch said, what ever you get make sure it doesn't auto inflate when it comes in contact with water.

If anyone has any other vests they like let us know. Right now I'm wearing the cheap one that comes in a bag and they are hot and uncomfortable!
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#16 Post by photofly » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:01 am

Some people get both: they keep the TSO ones for compliance, and wear the comfortable ones for safety.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#17 Post by PilotDAR » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:49 am

It was an EAM Bravo I was wearing, and which saved my life. Unfortunately, the excellent medical people who cared for me discarded it along the way, so examination was not possible. I was told that it had been ripped as I went through the windshield. While floating, I did not get to the point where I tried to inflate both chambers, the air I blew into to one seemed to be adequate to float me, even if it was leaking. I also own a single cell Mustang for boating use, and a Switlik two cell, with pockets (full of an overnight's worth of emergency gear) for when I'm farther from home on my own.

I'll be buying a new EAM to replace the lost one, there's not a doubt in my mind about the value of that investment!
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#18 Post by Heliian » Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:13 am

waterdog wrote:Switlik makes some great looking vests, but they are expensive and don't meet the magical TSO-C13f standards.
I've been wearing Switlik for years, all of our crews do and they meet TSO-C13d and the little cheap one meets TSO-C13f.

Available from spruce and many other places

http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/p ... ikev35.php

The ones we use:

http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/p ... key=219092
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#19 Post by Scout44 » Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:55 pm

Thanks for sharing your story Jim - it's an important topic for float and wheeled pilots alike.

I've learned something in this thread. I did my float rating 10 years ago, and I did Bry's egress training that year. I didn't know (or maybe I forgot) of the requirements for the inflatable jackets to be compliant with the TSO for aircraft use. During the time I did most of my float flying back then, I had a Mustang with the auto inflate disabled. Sold it after years of not using it. Recently, I picked up a couple EAM XF-35 pouch style vests for use in wheeled aircraft for the rare time when I'm doing a shoreline route or something, but there's no arguing the best method is to be wearing the vest.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets?

#20 Post by pdw » Wed Aug 30, 2017 9:58 am

What to do when a passenger (smaller land aircraft venturing out over water) requests to wear a lifejacket when shown it is in a neat package under the seat. Is that up to the pilot ?
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#21 Post by Spafloats2.0 » Wed Aug 30, 2017 2:41 pm

Technically, if an airline style jacket is removed from the sealed pouch it is good for one use and it needs to be inspected and a fresh maintenance release tag issued.

Have a look at the Switlik All Pax vest. It is fits children over 35 pounds and adults as well. TSO'd. Constant wear.

And the price is not unreasonable.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets?

#22 Post by AirFrame » Wed Aug 30, 2017 3:03 pm

pdw wrote:What to do when a passenger (smaller land aircraft venturing out over water) requests to wear a lifejacket when shown it is in a neat package under the seat. Is that up to the pilot ?
It's up to the pilot to wonder why he only has disposable life jackets to offer his passengers, yes.
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#23 Post by photofly » Wed Aug 30, 2017 4:22 pm

Spafloats2.0 wrote:Technically, if an airline style jacket is removed from the sealed pouch it is good for one use and it needs to be inspected and a fresh maintenance release tag issued.
I call pants-on-fire BS. Where is that established??
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#24 Post by JasonE » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:53 pm

Anyone want a pair of the basic yellow ones? I'll be upgrading after wearing it for a few water flights this week. Uncomfortable crap!
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Re: Prepared? Lifejackets.

#25 Post by groncher » Wed Aug 30, 2017 6:08 pm

Spafloats2.0 wrote:
Technically, if an airline style jacket is removed from the sealed pouch it is good for one use and it needs to be inspected and a fresh maintenance release tag issued.

I call pants-on-fire BS. Where is that established??


Pretty sure it's true, you can find the info in the CMM for the vest. One of the in-service inspection requirements for some vests is to ensure the pouch is not damaged. If it is it must be overhauled. If i can find a link i'll post it.
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