Pilots Utilize Local Wave Pool for Survival Training

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
With a tug of a rope, the pilot splashed into the water. As his survival vest inflated, a wave crashed over his head. With a flick of two buckles, he worked his way free of the rope and began to swim to safety.

Pilots of the 107th Fighter Squadron spent the early morning hours of Aug. 15, 2010, refreshing their emergency water survival skills, utilizing a local wave pool in a county park to simulate ejecting from an aircraft over the water.

"This is a very realistic scenario for our pilots," said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron Lynch, head of the air crew flight equipment section at the 107th. "After take-off, our aircraft frequently will turn to the east and fly over Lake St. Clair."

The 107th flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II and is based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, located along the shores of Lake St. Clair, a smaller lake located between Lakes Huron and Erie that serves as part of the border between Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

"It was very realistic training," said a dripping wet Major John Ohm, after completing his training and stepping out of the pool. "The waves in the pool simulate what you might expect in the ocean."

Ohm and his fellow pilots must undergo water survival refresher training once every three years to maintain their qualification. During the training, pilots were pulled from the edge of the pool into water that was about 15 feet deep. The pilots were attached to a rope held by a half-dozen Life Support Airmen on the opposite side of the pool, who pulled the pilot into the water and then dragged him or her several feet through the water, to simulate the pull of a parachute.

While the pilots are trained to attempt to hit the water on their backside, but in the training, pilots were pulled both back first and face first into the water.

"Depending on their situation, they may not be able to maneuver to hit the water and have the parachute pull them on their back, so they need to have a familiarity of what to do in either case," said Master Sgt. Ed Stone, training manager for the 107th flight equipment team.

After being pulled into the water twice, the pilots swam to a second station, where they were placed under a parachute canopy in the water and had to find their way out. At a third station, the pilots had to enter into a life raft and utilize other survival gear, such as their signal mirror. After leaving the water, pilots were given a refresher course on how to repair a rip in a life raft.

Lynch arranged to hold the training at the Red Oaks Water Park, a part of the Oakland County Parks system, in Madison Heights, Mich. The park is located less than 20 miles from Selfridge. Lynch said over the years, the 107th has utilized a number of different locations to conduct the training, including at a military training site off the coast of Florida and in Lake St. Clair itself.

"The park gives us a good, controlled environment, where we can get the training done efficiently," he said.

The park provided an on-site lifeguard, in addition to a number of Air National Guard safety personnel who were observing the training. The military's training began early in the morning, so that all of the training could be complete and the Guard's equipment would be removed from the pool before it opened for the day to the public at 10 a.m.