Realistic training saves lives
I'm sure you've all heard the news by now:
At approximately 1:34 p.m. EST this afternoon, HMCS Athabaskan's Sea King helicopter, with a crew of five on board, ditched approximately 50 kilometres off the east coast of Denmark . All five crewmembers were recovered by the ship and are safe. All have been examined by the medical officer and have returned to their quarters. Their families have been advised of the incident.
The accident occurred while the aircrew practised night landings with the Sea King off the back of the ship.
[bitter sarcasm]Another feather for Jean Chretien's cap.[/bitter sarcasm]
And on a serious note, another testimonial for Survival Systems Limited.
These are the folks who train our Sea King crews to survive ditching in water with their world-leading Modular Egress Training Simulator (METS) in Dartmouth, NS.
METS™ devices simulate underwater disorientation caused by a rapidly sinking, inverted helicopter. Statistically, one helicopter ditching can be expected every 100,000 hours of flying time. In 92% of cases, aircrew will experience less than one (1) minute warning, and 78% will experience less than 15 seconds warning. A realistic aircraft ditching training program and underwater escape trainer must, therefore, be made available for aircrew and passengers who fly over water.
Although I've never been through the full training program, I completed a truncated course while on OJT with a Sea King squadron at CFB Shearwater, and watched an earlier incarnation of the METS in action (almost fifteen years ago). They take a scale mock up of the helicopter, with seats and consoles and hatches and all, drop it into a pool, roll it over underwater, and teach you to get out before you drown.
These folks train not only Canadian military aircrew, but civilian crew (oil rig choppers, especially), and foreign military personnel in nineteen countries around the world. Of special note are contracts with the USMC for specialized AH-64 Apache trainers, and Modular Amphibious Egress Trainers (MAET) for LAV-25, AAV, and other amphibious vehicles.
I applaud the Sea King crew who followed their training and survived disaster at sea. But as I'm sure that crew will eventually tell you, the real plaudits go to those who trained them so diligently and expertly. Well done.