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Is personal aviation safety underrated?

With improvements in technology, general aviation has become much safer; however, the accident rate in general aviation hasn't changed much over the past decade.  The FAA and industry are focused on reducing general aviation accidents by primarily using a voluntary, non-regulatory, proactive, data-driven strategy to get results— similar to the strategy the FAA uses in commercial aviation. Is that enough?

Let’s take a look at personal safety equipment stipulations. The FAA requires overwater flights carry life preservers and other approved safety flotation devices for passengers and crew for Parts 121, 125 and 135 only if the overwater flight is at a distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the nearest shoreline. For the most part, this doesn’t include large bodies of water like lakes, bays and even rivers, which can still be an unforgiving environment.

To put that in perspective, for a majority of general aviation aircraft, you can legally operate over any of the waters in and around the U.S. without any sort of flotation device aboard.

Being forced to ditch is a stressful experience, but one that doesn’t have to be traumatic. With the right equipment and preparation, you are likely to survive a water ditching; in fact, the general aviation ditching survival rate is 90%. However, to do so, your safety is in your own hands. Understanding the risks, planning for the event, ensuring that the proper equipment is available will greatly enhance the likelihood of success. 

ISPLR emergency landing

Prepare for the event of a water ditching

  • Practice makes better. Research and find training facilities in your area where you can stimulate an egress situation. A Modular Egress Training Simulator plunges you into a pool where you can practice escaping from a submerged aircraft. 
  • A life vest, even when not required, is a vital necessity. No matter how physically fit you may be, you cannot rely upon your personal ability to survive in the water without some form of additional flotation, especially if the water is cold or you are injured. You won’t know what condition you’ll be in exiting your aircraft and your life vest will keep you afloat, improving the odds of survival. 
  • Having a life vest is a good start, but having a life raft will improve your odds further. A raft does two important things: it gets the occupants out of the water, reducing hypothermia risk, and it improves the probability of detection when Search and Rescue comes looking. A life raft is the best protection from the elements when going further than gliding distance from land. 

To survive, understand the risks, plan for different scenarios and ensure you have the proper equipment.

So, what do you think; should personal safety equipment like life vests and rafts be required on all flights?


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