Story last updated at 12:11 p.m. Thursday, April 24, 2003

Aircraft water landing training offered
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

You're in a small plane, flying across Kachemak Bay, when the engine stalls. The plane goes down in the water.

What do you do? Your life could depend on your reaction.

"If you know you're going into the water, you can prepare for that," said Jon Osgood, Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation board member. "There are things you can learn that are going to happen, and you can learn what to expect and how to prepare for it."

The AASF and the Federal Aviation Administration will offer training this weekend for interested pilots and passengers. The course is taught by the U.S. Coast Guard, and begins with a dry land class.

Then, students will be given a rare opportunity to experience a simulated emergency in the Homer High School pool.

"They strap you into this apparatus, called a dunker, which attaches to the side of the pool," said Osgood. "Then, you go through this experience where the dunker instantly submerges you in the water, and you have to get your safety belt undone and find your way to the surface."

If that sounds frightening, Osgood warns students to imagine how much worse it would be if the water were the temperature of Kachemak Bay, and heavy with waves.

Coast Guard divers will be in the water during the simulation to ensure the safety of students.

"It's a great thing for anyone to do," said FAA Community Relations Manager Joette Storm. "Especially if they fly over water, which, in Alaska, is just about everyone."

Dunker training normally costs as much as $500, Osgood said. This time, the FAA and Osgood's agency are footing the bill to provide the education for as many people as they can.

"We're trying to reach people in Nanwalek, Seldovia, Port Graham, all the places where people fly a lot," he said.

"Dunker training is not required for flight instructor certification, but it is very, very desirable for pilots, flight instructors, passengers, anyone who flies," Storm added. "Including reporters."

Those attending the class should wear what they would wear if they were flying, Osgood said.

"For some pilots, especially bear-viewing guides and things like that, that might mean hip boots," he said. "There's one caveat to that, though. This is a public pool, and everything should be as clean as possible."

The dry land training is mandatory, and will be offered during two sessions from 10-11:30 a.m. and 2-3:30 p.m. During the sessions students will sign up for pool time, which begins at 5 p.m.

Sunday water training will be assigned if all students cannot be accommodated Saturday evening, Osgood said. Space is limited.

For more information or to register, call 235-2020.

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homernews.com.

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