Later today, I will be pushed into a swimming pool, while strapped to what is a rough approximation of an airplane seat.
In the water, the seat will be inverted so I am upside down.
I’ll have about 10 seconds to unbuckle the seat belt and feel for an “exit.” I’m then supposed to push open the exit, swim out and float to the top of the swimming pool.
The exercise is portion of a water survival class in Long Beach organized by a company called Aircare Solutions Group. My classmates — who are actually in this program for three days — are generally pilots and flight attendants who work on private jets. They’ll learn about all types of emergency procedures during the training.
Granted, it’ not likely I’ll ever get trapped under water in an airplane seat. But Martin Hamilton, the company’s vice president for marketing, told me that exercises like these help cabin crew learn how to react in an emergency. They must remain calm and remember their training, he said. As difficult as this drill seems — and I’m not looking forward to it — Hamilton said it’s actually pretty easy. He said the trick is merely to remain calm and methodically go through all the steps to reach the water’s surface.
Remarkably, Hamilton said, one of the common mistakes is for people to get so confused that they swim to the bottom of the pool instead of the top.
This contraption, by the way, is called an “underwater egress dunker.”
Below in a video, Hamilton explains how the dunker works.