Can you survive a ‘Water landing’? It depends.

As I promised, I successfully completed emergency water evacuation training last week. I joined a group of corporate jet flight attendants and pilots at a facility run by Aircare Solutions Group at Long Beach Airport. From there, we rode to a swimming pool on the campus of Cal State Long Beach.

Here are some things I learned:

  • The contraption in the video above is called an underwater egress dunker. I successfully managed to do it, but it is not easy. You start belted into what is a rough approximation of an airline seat. Then the seat is dunked in the water and inverted so you are upside down. Once underwater, you are trapped. You have to “punch” out a window in order to rise to the top. Yes, a trained professional is ready to get you out, should the need arise. 
  • Those yellow life-jackets on airplanes are remarkably flimsy, and they’re far less buoyant than one you might buy for private use.
  • It is not nearly as easy to inflate the life jackets as you would think. Remember, in an emergency, you’re not suppose to inflate it until you are outside the airplane. You do so by pulling on a couple of tabs. (Remember that? From the safety video?) But let me tell you, in a stressful situation, the tabs are not so easy to find.
  • If you want to stay alive in freezing water, your best bet is to jump into a garbage bag. You try to scrunch your entire body so it fits inside. At least on private jets, flight attendants are trained to grab garbage bags in a water landing.
  • If you’re ever in an ocean and find yourself needing to climb into a life raft, you better be in shape. It’s not easy.
  • The water in the North Atlantic might be cold, but our instructor told us that would be the best open water place to land on water. The reason: There are always many ships crossing between continents. It’s the best place if you want a quick rescue.
  • And finally: If you ever find yourself marooned at sea in a life raft and one of your fellow crash survivors eventually dies, you must throw that person overboard immediately.
How long could you survive in open water? It turns out your chances are better if you wrap yourself in a garbage bag.

How long could you survive in open water? It turns out your chances are better if you wrap yourself in a garbage bag.

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