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Would the pilots in the Gulf and the Grand Canyon tell us what it's like to auto to the water and what forced landing areas are like in the canyon. Canyon guys, do the companies plan their tour routes around suitable LZ's or are you at the mercy of the terrain? Gulf guys, in training, do you practice full downs to the water on a float equiped A/c? Actual experiences would be appreciated too. Thanks, Jeff

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Would the pilots in the Gulf and the Grand Canyon tell us what it's like to auto to the water and what forced landing areas are like in the canyon. Canyon guys, do the companies plan their tour routes around suitable LZ's or are you at the mercy of the terrain? Gulf guys, in training, do you practice full downs to the water on a float equiped A/c? Actual experiences would be appreciated too. Thanks, Jeff

As a former Navy SH-60B pilot, we had to go through helo dunker training every 4 years. I know of a couple of squadron mates who crashed in the water. They said the training was invaluable. The key factor was that they had experienced a similar event in training and knew they could escape the real thing. This allowed them to calmly and methodically extract themselves from the aircraft. Keep a reference (ie on the controls, window frame is even better) while unbuckling. Then, pull yourself, handover hand, to the nearest exit.

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As a former Navy SH-60B pilot, we had to go through helo dunker training every 4 years. I know of a couple of squadron mates who crashed in the water. They said the training was invaluable. The key factor was that they had experienced a similar event in training and knew they could escape the real thing. This allowed them to calmly and methodically extract themselves from the aircraft. Keep a reference (ie on the controls, window frame is even better) while unbuckling. Then, pull yourself, handover hand, to the nearest exit.

 

While at Ft Rucker, the Air Force had us go through the Navy dunker program at NAS Pensicola and it was probably the best training that one can receive for saving your life in an unpleasant situation. As Rob says, having gone through it in the dunker gives one the confidence to know that you can get yourself out of the real thing when you're upside down, at night and in the drink.

 

I heard recently that the Army has put in a dunker facility at Ft Rucker.

 

Doug

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What actually is a "dunker"? Is it a special helicopter designed for this or a ground based machine? I've just never heard of one.

 

While at Ft Rucker, the Air Force had us go through the Navy dunker program at NAS Pensicola and it was probably the best training that one can receive for saving your life in an unpleasant situation. As Rob says, having gone through it in the dunker gives one the confidence to know that you can get yourself out of the real thing when you're upside down, at night and in the drink.

 

I heard recently that the Army has put in a dunker facility at Ft Rucker.

 

Doug

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A dunker is a mockup of an aircraft, in which trainees sit while being lowered into the water and capsized, after which they practice egress from underwater. There is a civilian school in Lafayette, LA which does very good training for offshore personnel, both crew and passengers.

 

At least some, if not all, offshore helicopter companies do full-down autos to the water with fixed-float equipped aircraft during initial and annual recurrent training. The hardest part of an auto to the water is knowing when you are in the water. Done properly, you don't feel the water entry, and it's far smoother than a normal landing on land. If you're coming in a little hot, you may see the entry, as the water sprays onto your windshield, but the entry still feels gentle. It's possible to cause significant damage, of course, but done correctly an auto the water is a piece of cake, at least to a calm sealane or calm seas. In 30 foot seas it's an entirely different thing, of course, and even if you do a successful auto there, the helicopter will be upside down in a matter of seconds. On floats, a helicopter has a very high center of gravity, and they turn turtle at the drop of a hat. 3 ft seas will capsize them eventually. The floats are only for keeping it upright until everyone gets out, and maybe keep it at the surface so it can be recovered by boats. It doesn't always work, but usually helicopters are recovered after autos, although they are often total losses due to damage caused by the recovery. I've seen a 206 which did a perfect auto, everyone got out in rafts with no injuries, but after it was finally brought up onto a platform, the tailboom and skids were gone, one blade was about 3 ft long, and it was just junk. A boat tried to tow it while it was upside down, and the blades started spinning under water.

 

It has been a long time since I did any autos to the water, because we don't practice them in medium twins except in the simulator. I don't know how realistic the sim is with autos to the water, but the whole reason for doing it is the decision-making and initial phases anyway.

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A dunker is a device designed to simulate a helicopter landing and inverting in the water. It can be very elabotate, and have an interchangable cockpit able to configure similar to a variaty of fuslages or it can look like a steel cage with lawn charis in it. But the premise is the same.

 

As for actual water touchdowns, my company doesn't practice them but we're hopefully remedying that. Some types on training don't even do touchdowns, but power recover instead. A few of the other companies do initial and re-current water touchdowns. To be honest, I am amazed that companies in this line of work don't all do them. It is the environment that we work in so a bit of familiiarity would probably help in an emergency situation.

 

I can tell you from experience it is a bit disconcerting when the engine does quit :blink: and you are about to do your first water landing, :( let alone a being the first touchdown auto done in that type either to water or land. :o Ad to that it was my first day in that type and it being Friday the 13th. with only a few moths experience in the gulf. :angry: But it all worked out ok, and I have a few cool pics and a pretty good story from it. :) Plus, I got a ride on a work boat and saw the bridge and got a lesson in how they navigate and control the big ships. :P

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What actually is a "dunker"? Is it a special helicopter designed for this or a ground based machine? I've just never heard of one.

 

 

When I was working out in the GOM it was a requirement along with water survival. It was a lot of fun, scarry, and educational.

The course I took set us up in a mock-up compleate with doors and darkend pool. then they set us in the water rocked us a little then fliped us into the water up side down. It was very dis-orienting with little light and the tail strobe in the water. They had divers in the pool to watch us and one in the mock up incase someone panicked. Follow this with water survival, having to tread water for the required time while wearing coverals to get the certificate my company required to work, left you a little worn out and shaken after your first time doing it.

The following years they sent us to one not quite as fancy, but it leaves you with the ability not to panic and for some reason even in my old pickup truck I tuck my extra seat belt leangth out of the way. Wonder why. LOL

 

"What did you do? NOOOO!! They are NOT the same! You use NITROGEN on a NITROGEN service cart, NOT HYDROGEN!!!" :o :blink:

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Anyone who'd like to see what a dunker is go rent the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman" about Navy pilot training near Seattle. My dunker experience was quite different. I had tried to get the training for years and finally had an opportunity at Coast Guard Airstation New Orleans. When I showed up - it was a lawn chair on two small floats in the public pool at the Recreation center!! You climbed into the chair, strapped in, and two guys flipped you upside down! Quite a letdown.

Anybody know of a place where a civilian can get into a real dunker without it costing an arm and a leg? Cheapest I've found is about $400. Kevin

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Anyone who'd like to see what a dunker is go rent the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman" about Navy pilot training near Seattle. My dunker experience was quite different. I had tried to get the training for years and finally had an opportunity at Coast Guard Airstation New Orleans. When I showed up - it was a lawn chair on two small floats in the public pool at the Recreation center!! You climbed into the chair, strapped in, and two guys flipped you upside down! Quite a letdown.

Anybody know of a place where a civilian can get into a real dunker without it costing an arm and a leg? Cheapest I've found is about $400. Kevin

 

The lawn chair was the annual refresher. LOL. The only way to get into one that I know of with out costing an arm and your lower extremities is to go to work for a company that is almost paranoid about not having proper basic safety training. I know it cost a lot because the only ones that received the fancy training were the ones just coming into the company, (It impresses the reality so you take it serious), after that you tended to take it serious no matter how unrealistic it looks to be on a lawn chair.

When it comes to a lot of safety training it may seem unrealistic to someone not familure with it but in most cases if you take it serious the princables are exactly the same. And if you can do the simulation and are comfortable with it when and if something really happens you are less likely to panic and do what you need to do to save your own life and maybe that of the ones around you.

 

" Before you can help another you must be able to save yourself "

Dave

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The organization that contracts to the U.S. Military to give underwater egress training is survival systems in Groton, CT. They have military training centers in many of the U.S. and over seas bases. The only civilian training they do is in Groton, CT U.S.A.

 

I took the class last fall and would reccomend it. They have a excellent mock aircraft that is dunked into the water, and can put different modules into it to simulate the type of door mechanism that mimics the aircraft you fly. The course was 1 day, including "ground" training. Cost was about $700.

 

Ironically, a lear jet on approach to Groton airport went into the bay last week killing the two pilots, while 3 of the passengers escaped. You can practically see the bay from the training deck of the school.

 

Mike

 

This is their website:

 

http://www.survivalsystemsgroup.com/

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Going to the sea lane at Acadiana Regional, fixed float Jet Ranger, every year at recurrent appears to be very different from the actual experience of a forced landing in open water- at least according to most of the guys I talked to. Most said depth perception was difficult, and the vast majority said they'd terminated high, resulting in... well, you know. Trying to hover over water, my experience is that over glassy water, you might drag a skid or be at a 100 feet. Waves improve that, but still significant challenge. Nobody forgot to blow the floats, although one pilot I talked to said his didn't work properly, the dunker egress training came in handy. This was the only pilot I talked to who'd had a fatal, one the pax in a Puma apparently took a blow to the head and never got out.

All the aircraft, save one, rolled over. Often, soon after landing. If not then, the aircraft almost always rolled while in tow. One successful recovery dropped off the crane. The company taught safety first, survival second, and recover the aircraft last. They self-insured for a million a seat, so losing the aircraft is a small price to pay if everybody gets home.

One pilot I talked to didn't open a flight plan prior to lift off, had a power failure between decks, suffered considerable injury on impact, but got clear and climbed to a boat deck. He said besides the crash, the barnacles on the structure were sharp and cut him up. The customer noticed him on the landing and realized he wasn't working the field...

A quote, somewhere, says "To fly the aircraft as far into the crash as possible" and use the bird's structure to protect yourself. Power-on ditchings were the rarest, but the most survivable. It's hard to intentionally lose an aircraft, but I know from experience that "just a little more" can lead to unpleasant surprises. Lots of crashes in the GoM with no survivors.

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