Find Me

Sorry for the interruption in my survival seminar but I get all misty and sentimental this time of year and like any proud parent I have a tendency to go on and on about my kids. I’ll try and not let that happen again but no promises.

So when we last left our unhappy ferry pilot he’d managed to get into his raft wearing a good quality survival suit and a thick layer of warm clothes that wick moisture away from the body underneath. With those two things going for him it’s unlikely that he will die immediately, even if he went down in the north atlantic or bearing straight in the middle of winter. But the clock is ticking. How much time does he have? Well that depends on a lot of factors, mostly what the air and water temperature is. There are countless stories of pilots and sailors lasting for months at sea when they happen to be lucky enough to be castaway in the tropics. But Leonardo DiCaprio only lasted long enough to over act a few lines before turning into a human Popsicle after jumping from the Titanic. And while I’m on that subject, why the hell didn’t what’s her name just move over and let him on? I mean seriously, there was plenty of room on that hatch cover or what ever it was. I’m just saying. Anyway, so if you’re sitting in a raft in the middle of the north atlantic in the middle of winter your first priority is to…….GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!!!!!!!! Seriously, besides being in an ISIS summer camp for girls, that is the last place in the world you want to be. Now once you’re in a raft in the north atlantic the only way out is outside rescue. There is no way you are going to get the oars and row to Iceland or use a sea anchor to manage your drift and try to navigate your little ship. Nope, not gonna happen, the only out is for someone to come and get your dumb ass. Actually that might be numb ass. So step one is to let everyone know where you are. Now hopefully as soon as it looked like you might even possibly have a problem you screamed like a girl and made a mayday call on every radio you had onboard. You should have called oceanic control, any airliners you could reach on guard, the Coast Guard, and your high school guidance counselor, (it’s his fault you’re not a doctor) and told them you position. Remember the faster you call someone who cares the faster they get you out of the ocean and into a hot tub. Because like I said the clock is ticking.

So you’ve lost your engine, (it’s always in the last place you look) you managed to get someone to answer your pitiful call for help, not what? Well, besides trying to fix your broken airplane, you need to decide where to go because if you were flying at any kind of reasonable altitude you might be able to glide for fifty miles or more. So which way? Keep going on your original heading? Turn back? Pick a random heading and ditch miles off course? Probably not a good idea but easy to do if you’re not paying attention while you work on other issues. Go back and ditch in front of the big cargo ship you passed a while ago? You did mark it as a waypoint in your GPS didn’t you? Whatever you decide don’t forget to send out to the most accurate Lat Long position of your ditching position you can because the ocean is big and being off by just a few miles can be fatal.

Let’s assume you managed to contact a passing airliner who remained in contact with you all the way down and got an exact fix on your position. You’re all set, just sit back and wait for the cavalry right? Wrong. Like a said the ocean is big and if you’re out of helicopter range (and you will be) you are going to have to wait for someone in a boat to come for you and guess what? Boats are slow. Sure the nearest country might be able to send a fixed wing rescue plane like a C-130 to you’re position and they might find you in relatively short order. But all they can do is mark your position and maybe drop you a bigger raft. You’re still going to have to wait for a boat and, depending on where you are, that’s going to take a long time.

When I’m ferry flying the part of the world that bothers me most is the North Atlantic. Not only because of the horrible weather and long legs over bone chilling ocean but because of he lack of rescue resources and the long distances they would have to cover to reach you. Imagine if you had to ditch Just off the southern tip of Greenland, halfway between Canada and Iceland. Your little raft is now bobbing in the water over 600 miles from the nearest Coast Guard station and It’s going to take them almost 2 DAYS to reach your position!

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After 2 days at sea your little orange life raft isn’t going to be in the same location as it was when you gave your last position report. The wind and currents will have pushed you a long way from your ditching point so we move on to our next essential items in the quest to survive. Emergency transmitters. When I started ferry flying we all carried old aircraft Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT). They were big, the batteries were never new, and they were definitely NOT waterproof, kind of a problem when you end up in the ocean. These days the best thing to have with you is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which sends out a constant signal to overhead satellites with your exact GPS position, a huge improvement over the ELT. They’re small, waterproff, the batteries last forever, and they not only send out an accurate GPS position but also broadcast on the emergency frequency (121.5) that rescuers can home in on. I also carry a small handheld aviation radio that allowes me to communicate with passing airliners and search aircraft. It would deffinatly come in handy if I could see them but they couldn’t see me. The last thing that would be really handy if you were sitting in a life raft would be a satelite phone. The ability to talk directly to the search and rescue center would be invaluable. You could also use it to call your wife to let her know you’re OK and to not sell your motorcycle just yet.

3 Replies to “Find Me”

  1. Hi Kerry how many seasons has there been of dangerous flights, got hooked on your adventures and can only get on YouTube

    Happy new year


    1. Unfortunately we only filmed two seasons. The Discovery channel canceled third season after the chief cameraman/director was killed in a plane crash in Africa filming an episode of season two. Hopefully more of season two makes it onto Youtube soon.

      1. Damn! Didn’t know that the chief cameraman/director was killed in a plane crash. Ironic really, I digress, are there any reports out on the crash?


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