Welcome to “Skids Up”; the first of many safety and survival blogs. The aim of this blog is to inform, educate, and encourage our fellow aviators about survival and rescue topics.
In the current age of budgets, personal survival is often overlooked, frowned upon, or not important. A common theme, when I take students into the field, is ´I would light a fire and kill an animal. I would be fine´. I have the unfortunate (or fortunate) experience of having survived numerous crashes and ditchings in my 28 years of flying, and can say it is not that easy.
However, HEMS crashes are unfortunately increasing every day, and whilst some crashes are not survivable, there are many that are.
I will write these blogs based on experience, and what works best for me based on experience and working globally. Please feel free to comment and ask questions as ´knowledge is best shared´. I may offend (occasionally), but that is not my aim. If you see some text that is from ´elsewhere´, after 28 years of flying and being a survival instructor for 18 years, I have masses of information that I want to divulge. I’m not stealing others work. I just can’t remember who taught me!
The aim of this series is to disseminate knowledge that you can use to either practice in your own time, or (one of the benefits of flying) highlight issues and deficiencies to your management, and start your own internal training programs.
I am British, for the international aviators. (Makes you feel like Top Gun now!). I apologise for any English ´quirks´ such as spelling and slang. A lot of the blog content may seem repetitive, and so it should. As we are all professionals, the important stuff needs repeating until we remember it.
Before accumulating information on the use and operation of survival systems and techniques, it is important to first understand the psychological barriers to the will to survive that must be overcome. The most predominant psychological barrier to survival is FEAR:
• Fear of the unknown,
• Fear of discomfort,
• Fear of one’s own weakness.
Fear of the environment leads us to fear our own chances of survival, and even though we overcome these fears to some extent, a lack of confidence in our ability may weaken our will to survive. Studies of survivors and their experiences show that the successful survival of any situation depends on several factors. The survivor must:
• Be mentally and spiritually prepared for the possibility of long term survival,
• Be in good physical condition,
• Have the tools and equipment available and know how to use it,
• Be properly dressed for any survival situation,
• Be thoroughly familiar with emergency egress procedures.
The key to these experiences is developing a survivor’s “attitude”. In other words, to develop those traits and characteristics that will enhance one’s chance of survival.
The Will to Survive
There are a number of factors that will influence a crew member’s ability to survive in the event the aircraft is forced to make an emergency landing or crash in a remote area. These are mental characteristics that each crew member should strive to maintain while dealing with a potentially stressful situation. Having the physical skills to survive the event will do little good if the right outlook and attitude are not present.
Courage: The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables you to face danger or fear with self-possession, confidence, and resolution. Courage enables us to overcome the fear that can overwhelm us in a survival situation. Each time we encounter danger or fear and overcome it, we strengthen our courage. It is understandable that crew members will exhibit a certain amount of fear in these situations. The key is to not allow that fear to become panic.
Determination: The state of mind in which you tell yourself that you will overcome whatever obstacle you are faced with. It is this type of attitude and mental outlook that can assist the body to physically rise to any different challenges.
Survival Cheerfulness: The ability to maintain a cheerful and humorous attitude despite being placed in a stressful situation will allow crew members to overcome many of the anxieties and the apprehension they face.
Positive Attitude: Being positive helps make the best out of the current situation. Thoughts of failure will hinder the ability to make sound and clear decisions. Self-fulfilling prophecies are usually manifested from negative thoughts and attitudes. Failure is inevitable when one believes there is no hope in sight.
Purpose: Having a sense of purpose and setting goals (both long and short term) will help keep crew members motivated. Being motivated is has a high value in a survival situation because it assists in generating the will to live.
Productiveness: Keeping busy will increase crew member’s chances for survival by keeping both the mind and body occupied. Sitting around tends to lend itself to crews becoming bored and allowing thoughts of failure, panic, and loneliness; all of which can undermine the chances of survival.
Certainty: The will to survive is inevitably dependent on the crew’s ability to remain certain that they will once again return to family, friends, and co-workers. You are only a survivor once you have returned to civilization.
Priorities of Survival
These are SO IMPORTANT! There are many mnemonics around, but these have been tried and tested by numerous survivors. Over many years, the ´Priorities of Survival´ have been developed. These are derived from what is known as the “Rule of Threes”;
• 3 seconds following a bad decision,
• 3 minutes without oxygen,
• 3 hours exposed to extreme cold,
• 3 days without water,
• 3 weeks without food.
As a consequence of this rule, the priorities of survival can be established that focus on the most important actions:
1. PROTECTION – Protection from the elements, weather, insects and further injury are all covered in this section.
2. LOCATION – We want to be FOUND and be RESCUED.
3. WATER – Collection and preservation of water.
4. FOOD – Not an immediate priority, but necessary to prevent hypoglycemia and malnutrition.
EVERYTHING in survival is about these priorities – Period.
In the next edition, we will look at dressing correctly for flight operations. If you have any suggestions or comments, please comment. I work in Guatemala, so I have access to every environment (but sub-zero conditions), and I will take a group of pilots (Time to get our own back!) and test whatever questions you have!