Now that you have your FAA approved life vest, you’ll need to properly maintain it for full use between re-certifications. You should familiarize yourself with your new life vest, reading any accompanying instructions to make sure you understand how it works in the event of an emergency.
Every time you put on your life vest, check the exterior for rips, tears, holes, loose threads or other signs of obvious wear. Check that all of the straps are firmly attached and that all connecting hardware functions correctly.
When not in use, avoid leaving your life vest in direct sun which can cause deterioration and the fading of the fabric.
FAA TSO life vests are required to be inspected every two years. Even if you are not required to carry an FAA TSO vest, each manufacturer has a recommended service interval, which you should stick to. Generally, the longer you wait for servicing, the more expensive your service costs will be, or the vest may have degraded to a point where it is unserviceable.
When the vests come in, they’re given an initial inspection to see if things are missing or any obvious problems, and if needed, are cleaned first. Crew vest jackets will be opened to examine the cells. If there are no apparent issues, the cells can stay attached to the jacket during testing.
The CO2 cylinders are removed and weighed. If they meet the weight marked on the side of the cylinder, they can be reused, as long as they are not heavily corroded. The inspectors will look for loose stitching, torn fabric, webbing; and check buckles, oral tubes, inflators. On crew vests, the Velcro or zipper closure on the jacket must be checked as well as the integrity of the lacing that holds the flotation cells to the jacket.
Once the vests have been inspected, they can go on to testing.
If the vest is less than 5 years old, it will get a
. The vest is inflated to 2 psi for a specific period of time. Only a certain amount of leakage is allowed for that period of time. The vest light will also get tested. We check the thickness of the battery. If the battery gets wet, it starts to swell. So, there’s a certain dimension that it has to meet, depending on the light manufacturer. Then, we test the light to make sure it works, with a special tester that sends voltage to the light.
Once the vest hits 5 years of age, 2 more tests come into play. There’s the
Oral Tube Attachment Test
which tests the integrity of the weld between the life vest cell and the oral tube. We clamp the cell down in a fixture and apply a pulling load of 30 lbs to the oral tube for 3 seconds. This test must be repeated every 5 years. The other test that applies at 5 years is the
. This is where the cell is inflated to 5 psi for 5 minutes. Here, we’re looking to see if the seams will burst. This test must be repeated every 5 years until the 10
year, then at every subsequent service period.
Now, if you have an airline life vest with a 10-year TBO, all of the tests above will be performed at every service. As long as the vest passes these tests, it’s good to go back into service. There is no set life limit to our life vests.
Can I get my life vest serviced anywhere?
No, you can only have your life vest serviced at facilities which have been authorized by SWITLIK. All SWITLIK authorized service centers undergo extensive hands-on factory training with our team of engineers to demonstrate their proficiency. These centers also hold the most up to date version of our detailed manuals. One slight wrong fold, or even just the improper placement of an item within a packed vest can create catastrophic consequences during an emergency.
Servicing is very necessary for your life vest to properly perform when needed instead of giving you false peace of mind. The longer you wait for servicing, the more expensive your service costs will be, or the vest may have degraded to a point where it is unserviceable.
Behind the Scenes—Making a Life Vest
What do you need in an aviation life vest?
Servicing your life raft