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Striving to Survive
By Roger A. Storey
As the popularity of aviation as a career and as a hobby increases, so does the concern for safety. One such concern is survival after a crash. As a Survival Instructor with the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute's Airman Education Division, I am often asked: "What is the most important piece of equipment to have in a survival situation?" The answer is simple: Me.

In any survival situation, there will be specific priorities. The priorities will include medical first-aid, shelter from the elements, rest, water, and food. The order of importance you place on each of these priorities will be dictated by each situation. For instance, the priorities for a pilot forced into a survival situation in rural Missouri during the month of August will vary from a pilot who has to survive in Northern Michigan during January. One thing is for certain, without a "will to survive," there can be no survival. If you do not have a desire to survive, there is no equipment made that will help you survive.

There are two simple, but important, ways you can increase your chances of survival. These involve preparation- before you ever find yourself in an actual survival situation. The first is to admit to yourself that "It Can Happen To Me." The next step is to prepare yourself, both mentally and physically. It is not enough to prepare mentally if you cannot withstand the physical requirements of a survival situation.

The mental preparation can come in the form of educational courses, books, or conversations. There are all kinds of survival courses conducted around the United States that deal specifically with the climate, terrain, and many other factors that you may be exposed to in each region. Along with these courses, there are a great number of books on survival techniques for the dessert, arctic, and sea. You can find these at most bookstores or at the library. Another way to gain knowledge is to ask people who have been through a survival situation what to expect. Training also includes learning how to use, or just practicing, the use of survival gear you may already have.

Preparing yourself, physically, for a survival situation depends greatly on the shape you are in now. Keep in mind that your situation may require you to walk, climb, or even carry a fellow crewmember or passenger a distance. You will want to be as physically fit as you would expect the person, who might have to carry you, to be.

By improving your knowledge and physical capabilities, you will also increase your confidence, which will benefit you a great deal. The more informed you are about your own capabilities and on the climate and terrain over which you fly, the easier it will be to decide which equipment will best suit your needs to take aboard your aircraft. Another good idea is to visit a local camping supply store in your area. A few of the items that are generally available are:
  • Ponchos (raincoat and/or shelter)
  • A good knife
  • Iodine tablets (water purification)
  • Solar blankets
  • Leatherman tool kit
  • Signaling equipment
  • First-aid kits
  • Compass
  • Snake bite kit
  • Metal matches

Mr. Storey is an instructor in CAMI's Airman Education Programs Branch.

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