Gravity Check

In the sprit of trying to make up for my six month hiatus from blogging I’m bringing back my practice of posting photos from my iphoto library. Flying, skydiving, hunting, skiing, and anything else I can find to try and entertain you guys without all the work of actually writing. Bread and circuses you know.

Melanie S with KM 9.27 JW 025Just another day at the office

Show Of Hands

OK, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted? Oh yeah, our un-lucky aviator has survived a ditching at sea, managed to inflate and climb aboard his life raft and not lose (I’ll touch on the subject of not losing stuff later) the ELT, PLB, handheld aviation radio, and satellite phone. He’s also warm and toasty in his thick neoprene survival suit covering multiple layers of non-cotton underwear and clothes. Things are looking good! All you need to do is turn on the ELT or PLB to let everyone know where you are, contact a passing airliner on the handheld aviation radio and let them know what condition you’re in, then order a pizza on the Sat phone and wait for the rescue Uber. (If I were him I’d Opt for the Black Uber option) There’s only one problem. You’re wearing a thick Neoprene Survival suit with built-in gloves that only have two huge fingers and a fat thumb. Basically you’re wearing rubber oven mitts. Good luck doing anything that normally requires fingers. immersion-suit-lalizas-2Now yes there are some survival suits that have removable gloves that you can take off but there are two things that I don’t like about them. First, both times I went through the open water survival course in Iceland I used a suit that had removable gloves and both times the only thing that got cold when I jumped into the ocean were my hands. The gloves don’t fit tight enough to keep water out and even though the water in the glove eventually got wormed up by my body heat my hands were still cold. (The cuffs around my wrists also let in a little bit of water but not very much) When you jump into the water in a suit with gloves that don’t come off your whole body stays DRY! Your hands are DRY! Did I make my point about liking to stay DRY while I’m floating around in the North Atlantic? And secondly, suits with integrated gloves are what you get when you rent suits in Goose Bay or Wick Scotland. You use what you get. (There are some newer/more expensive suits on the market and maybe someday I’ll buy one but that day ain’t today.)

new suit                                  This one has a face shield that might come in handy.

So step one, dig out the electronic devices you brought with you from the plane before it went down. How did you get them out of the plane without losing them? That’s a very important question because if you drop them or the raft getting out of the plane you’re screwed. The system I’ve developed over the years is to have my “MUST NOT LOSE!” items zipped inside my survival suit instead of in some kind of case or bag that I have to hang onto. That way I have my hands free to hang onto the raft and climb out of twisted, sinking, God damned door’s jammed, upside down pice of shit airplane…….at night.

I’ll cover exactly what I have in my “MUST NOT LOSE!” survival kit in another post but almost all the items have one thing in common, the are in individual Ziploc bags and if they’re important enough (like the electronics) they are double bagged. Because salt water = BAD. So to get at anything at all you’re going to have to open two heavy duty Ziploc storage bags for each item, ever try that wearing oven mitts? And even if you do manage to tear open the bags with your teeth you still have to turn on and operate the fancy do dad you brought with. Oh and be careful not to drop it because the bottom of the raft probably has six inches of sea water in it and if you drop something that’s not waterproof it’s now junk.  I’ve practiced turning on the old ELTs’ while wearing the survival suit and even though you have to pull up on the toggle switch that activates the beacon before you can turn it on I was able to do it with the oven mitts on, sitting in my hotel room. The PLB was a little more difficult (had to use my teeth) but I still got it done, again in my hotel room, not, wet, cold, seasick, getting tossed around in a tiny raft……at night. So what’s our un-lucky aviator to do? ( I hate calling him that, I need to give this fictitious pilot a name. Hans? Roderick? Thorby? I have to be careful naming him because if I end up liking him I’ll have a hard time killing him in the end. Hmmm…..Charles?   Yes, Charles it is.  So Chuck, what ya gonna do? You already had to un-zip the front of your survival suit to get the “DO NOT LOSE!” kit out you might as well pull one of your arms out of the neoprene sleeve and use your bare hand to operate all the fancy toys you brought along. If I’m sitting in a covered raft that’s what I’d do. You won’t get your suit filled with sea water, it shouldn’t be THAT cold inside the raft so you shouldn’t lose too much body heat, and once you’re done doing what you need to do you can zip up again. Of course getting your arm out of the sticky rubber suit might be difficult if your arms, or shoulders, or back, or hips were injured in the crash, best not to think about such things. Oh, and it’s also best not to think about what you’d do if you lost the raft and are just bobbing in the ocean in your survival suit. Crap, now I have to tell Charles what to do in that case.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody! I know, I know, Christmas was last week and my New Year’s hangover is but a distant unpleasant memory, but if you look at my past history of posting, a holiday post that’s only five or six days late is something of a miracle. A Christmas miracle……get it? OK, it’s not turning water into wine, which would be pretty damn handy I must admit, but hey, it’s all I got.

Our Thanksgiving was pretty quite because Super Girl decided that she’d rather go skiing in Vail and have Thanksgiving dinner with 20 of her friends than fly home to see the people that actually brought her into this world. A good call in my opinion. And because the Army in its infinite wisdom has decreed that thou shalt have turkey and all the fixings in the mess hall and then back to class. Also a good call. So to avoid the same empty nest this Christmas we forced the stars to align, cashed in our frequent flyer miles and got the band back together. Connor was the first one home from Fort Eustis Virginia where he is one month into the four month long UH-60 Blackhawk Crew Chief school. Connor’s faithful sidekick Koda gave him the kind of homecoming you see from most good dogs when their master comes home from a long time away in the military


Connor told us that he’d been feeling a little home sick and was really looking forward to being home for the holidays. He also didn’t want to miss out any Christmas traditions and wanted to be there when we picked out and decorated the tree. (We always make a big night out of it.) No problem we said, We can wait until December 21st to get our tree this year. Unfortunately when we went to the tree lot it was closed for the season and all that was left were a few scraggly bushes in a pile in the corner of the parking lot. With no other option it was time for dad to come to the rescue and make a tree. How do you make a tree you ask? Well, you dig out part of an old fake tree from the attic and prop it up on a plastic cooler, plop a couple of ferns in front to make it appear bigger, and cram two bigger house plants on each side for……I don’t know, effect? Either way I got the job done and Christmas was saved! And I didn’t even have to water it.


Claire, AKA Super Girl, managed to tear herself away from the glamours life of wind tunnel junkie and got home Christmas day. After seeing Connor get a new holster for his 357 revolver she asked if she could get a pistol. Apparently all her girlfriends in Denver carry one and seeing that she comes home from work very late almost every night and lives in a pretty shady part of town I heartedly agreed. So the next morning it was out to our cabin to see if she could hit the broad side of a barn. I need’t have worried because I’d taught her how the shoot years ago and she was still a dead shot, even if her form needs a little work.



All in all it was a great Christmas but it was over too soon and before we knew it both kids were gone leaving us with an empty nest once again. Oh well.

Have a great year everybody!

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.