Pilot's tip of the week

Egress After Ditching

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Subscriber question:

"I’ve read that most people get into trouble ditching an airplane (in water) because they become disoriented and can’t get out. I would appreciate any general advice for getting out of the airplane. For example, should I open the door before impact? I've heard different opinions." - Johnathan C.

Rod:

“You want to have the door cracked open if and when an engine quits, and practice the orient, move and locate technique.

Prior to water contact, make sure that the door is open before contacting the water. And you can do this by wedging something in the door before splashdown. If you don’t open the door in a water ditching, then water is going to have to leak into the cabin to equalize the hydrostatic pressure before the door can be opened. You’ll have to wait for the airplane to essentially fill up before you can leave. And you might be cool, but no one is that cool.

Additionally, for all over water flights, you’ll want to practice the following technique: and it’s called orient, move and locate.

This technique helps you orient yourself to the front of the airplane and the airplane’s door handle. And it’s an extremely important and useful technique if you become confused as to which way is up, down, in or out. You can practice it by sitting in the airplane and placing your right or left hand on your leg thigh located nearest the door. This is how you orient yourself to the airplane. Remember, your seatbelt is on here so you’re in the right or left seat facing forward. The next thing you do is to move your hand in 90-degree motions to locate the door handle. Move your hand from your knee, 90-degrees right or left to find the door. Then, move your hand 90-degrees upwards to locate the door handle.

This process helps you find the door in the water in pitch black conditions while the airplane is upright, tilted or even inverted. It’s a good procedure to remember.

And here’s one more thing I’d like you to remember. Do not remove your seatbelt until whatever water is going to rush into the cockpit, has rushed into the cockpit. This prevents you from being swept to the back of the aircraft as water fills the cockpit. Additionally, do not remove that seatbelt until you have located the door handle.”

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