You may think ditching would only happen at sea, but what happens if you’re in mountainous terrain, where the flattest surface for an emergency landing is a river or lake? About 71% of the Earths surface is covered in water.
The chance of having to ditch is rare, but it does happen.
Be prepared for this by having a life preserver readily available for each occupant of the aircraft. Life preservers come in all shapes and sizes and can range from an old fashioned ‘buoyancy aid’ (normally a waistcoat filled with buoyant material) to a Fire Resistant (FR) garment with an automatically operated stole and a 406Mhz Personal Locator Beacon.
How do modern life preservers work?
Modern aviation life preservers are normally composed of a harness assembly or waistcoat to which is fitted an inflatable bladder and gaseous inflation system. The inflation system comprises a carbon dioxide cylinder and an inflation/operating mechanism.
Automatic or manual?
Manual and automatic/manual inflation mechanisms are available. Manual mechanisms are ideal for use in helicopters and GA aircraft, where escape may occur once the aircraft is submerged in the water. Automatic operation models are recommended for aircraft fitted with AAES (Aircraft Assisted Escape Systems/Ejection Seats) where the wearer is not restricted by the airframe when they enter the water.
Operating the inflation mechanism forces a piercer into the carbon dioxide cylinder, which in turn releases the compressed gas into a large waterproof bladder which inflates almost instantaneously. The inflated bladder provides additional buoyancy to the wearers body and helps keep the wearers nose and mouth out of the water.
A basic aviation use life preserver should be at least SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) 150N which provides 33lbs/16kg of buoyancy and is suitable for both swimmers and non-swimmers. These life preservers are designed for use in all but the most severe conditions.
AAES users and those wanting higher levels of buoyancy with a self righting function should look at life preservers that offer higher levels of buoyancy, automatic inflation and self righting properties.
Life preservers are manufactured by a number of specialised companies, please give us a call for more details!