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  • 34

Survival Training for When a Pilot’s World Turns Upside Down

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NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. — The pilot sat strapped to a chair, held in place as if he were in the backseat of a helicopter. Beside him, on a mock wall, was a window. The window was closed. The pilot wore opaque goggles. He could not see the window or anything else. The chair was attached to a rotating stand in the chest-deep water of a swimming pool. A petty officer spun a large wheel, flipping the chair backward with a gentle whoosh. The pilot was now underwater, upside down.… (www.nytimes.com) More...

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Belton
Factoid: I was told when I went through it that the Navy added the helo dunker to the Dilbert Dunker ejection training because there had been instances where the SAR helo had gone down on the way back to the ship. That's when they realized that everyone aboard had been trained on helo egress procedures-- except the poor schmuck who'd just been rescued.
USAFcptnShades
Speaking from experience, I'll ride the centrifuge all day long over aviation water survival training. Lol!
dmanuel
dmanuel 1
It has been some time since I went through water survival training (Naval Aviator), but this sounds like recurrent training. During initial training (at NPA) we went down a railed track and hit the water with a slight forward velocity. The 'cockpit' then flipped over, to simulate a conventuals aircraft ditching. The entire class breezed right through. However, the Helio dunker caused way more flunks.
Wingscrubber
Wingscrubber 1
Holding my breath just reading this. I had a friend who had to do similar training for the royal marines, where several guys had to escape from a simulated Puma helicopter being dunked - he said in the chaos somebody kicked him in the face swimming for the door, apprently it was rather disconcerting to see his own blood clouding up the water as he was trying to get out!
navydoc192
steven meyer 1
I used to teach this water survival and spacial apperception in the US Navy-Very good training! Now I fly and my own lessons come back to teach me again!

S. Meyer
USN Retired
A6SEA
Bill Butler 1
Arrgghhh! The memories come flooding back. 1966. Probably the same pool and the same, well maintained - of course - Dilbert Dunker. I didn't have to do the helo dunker (whew)! but did all the other survival things. Awful, fearful. The best training Navy Air has ☺
Skistar
Bruce Staron 1
As a Life Support Specialist in the USAF during the Vietnam war we made it our job to make the aircrew survival training through. I had to go through both Jungle Survival and Sea Survival at Kadena AB, Okinawa. Being dragged through the water in a parachute harness by an LST both front and backwards is very realistic.
403331
James Brown 1
"Dilbert Dunkers" used to be at most Naval Air Stations where cadets trained. The dunkers were a rudamentary cockpit on a slide that when it hit the water, flipped upside own. Of course, we did not have an oxygen mask. Strapped to the seat with flight gear on encouraged the cadet to make a rapid disconnect. Naval aviators of all vintage live with this possibility of a water landing. We hate this remote possibility, but we don't fear it any more than when we wear a parachute
Nickntime
What James Brown said. Got to do that around 1961 at Quonset Point NAS going through air crew training.
403331
James Brown 1
I feel like Grampa Pettibone...I was a cadet in 1943.
Nickntime
I doubt much had changed by 1961. Probably the same type rig you rode. I was even on the last of the straight decks.
Stonesurfer
Stonesurfer 1
I want to fly HH-60s for USAF later in life but this is definitely what I dread the most.
mmnybig
Michael Mazor 0
I'll ride the centrifuge all day long over aviation water survival training.

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