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Underwater Egress Training
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Located in Pensacola Naval Air Station this training is intended to prepare you for possible emergencies during over-water flights.

The training uses a Navy-developed device that simulates a helicopter rolling and sinking after hitting the water. Fitted with a two-seat cockpit, four-seat passenger area and windows, this "dunker" simulates what would happen in a real crash.

To make the training realistic, you wear full flight gear, including flight suits, gloves, boots, flight vests and helmets.

The training has two phases, each of which included multiple scenarios. First, the dunking machine is used to learn escape procedures after a helicopter water crash. You are trained with the helicopter emergency egress device system, or HEEDS, a small device which allows underwater breathing for short periods of time.


dunker training

The dunker training includes four different dunks. Before each, the device was raised about eight feet above the water and then dropped straight down.

During the first stage, you remain in an impact position.

When the device hits the water, everyone simulates breaking out the window nearest them. As the device begins to sink, you place one hand on the lap belt release and the other on a reference point to aid in escape. The dunker stops sinking when you are about 5 feet deep in the water.

In the next dunk, the device begins to sink and roll completely upside down after hitting the water. You are taught not to attempt to release the lap belts or try to escape during this period, which lasted about 10 seconds. When the dunker stops rolling, trainees find themselves upside down, disoriented and water-logged, at which time they began their escape attempt.

There are four scenarios during the sink-and-roll portion of the training. In the first, trainees escape through the nearest exit. In the second, the trainees all escape through a single exit. This is a challenge for some occupants. Depending on seat location, some trainees have to use a hand-over-hand method to find the exit and escape.

Trainees were blacked-out goggles during the third scenario, during which they again escaped through the exit nearest their seats.

The fourth scenario poses the greatest challenge. All occupants wear blacked-out goggles and escape through the same exit. This can lead people to panic...not what a PJ does...As a safety measure, Navy divers are underwater during all dunks. If any trainees had trouble escaping, a diver is there to help immediately.

Trainees use the HEEDS bottle during the next day's training. Essentially, the device is a miniature scuba tank that can fit in a flight vest. During a crash, the bottle can be placed in the mouth to allow underwater breathing for two to four minutes at a depth of 20 feet.

Unlike the aircraft dunker you train in the day before, the HEEDS dunker has only one seat and is positioned just inches above the water. The occupant is turned upside down in about five feet of water.

This training also consists of four scenarios. In the first, which familiarizes trainees with the device, the trainees escape by releasing their lap belts and swimming out the appropriate exit.

The students put the HEEDS bottles in their mouths before being dunked in the second scenario. After normal breathing is established, trainees release their lap belts and swam out the exit.

In the third scenario, trainees release their lap belts and swim to the exit immediately after being dunked. There, a Navy instructor grabs you to simulate being caught on an object. You then have to use the HEEDS bottle. Once this is done successfully, you are released.

In the last scenario, trainees use HEEDS bottles while still strapped to the seat and still upside down after being dunked. After normal breathing is established, the students release their lap belts and swim for the exit.

This training is important because it increases a PJ's (and the rest of the crew's) chances of survival during a water crash.