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Rahul Monga

So what do you need for an arctic flight?

Well, if you're crossing the Hudson or Davis Straits, get an immersion suit and wear it! The photo at left shows Rahul Monga in his suit after crossing Davis Strait in a CT Designs ultralight, as part of a 'round the world trip.

The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARS) no longer specify a long list of equipment required for flights in northern Canada.  You can see the regulations on survival equipment and flotation devices required to be carried by clicking this link and going to section 602.61. You will also find more detailed information and equipment suggestions in the AIP Canada at Section !.5.1 Sparsely Settled areas.

We recommend this article from the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association for details and suggestions on what to bring. And keep in mind, it can get pretty cold up here, even in the summer.

Probably nothing is more important that ensuring you've got a 406 ELT for your aircraft. And it never hurts to bring a personal locator beacon or other method of signalling for help.

A life raft is generally required for flights over water.  The regulations go into a bit more detail by single/multi-engine and distance over water.

The shortness of the list shouldn't lull the potential arctic pilot into thinking not much is required.  You have to remember where you will be traveling.  If you are forced down it can be cold. Temperatures, even in summer, can dip to freezing and below. Hypothermia is ALWAYS a danger.  Once you are above the tree line, material for starting and maintaining a fire can be hard to find. There is often little in the way of shelter from wind, rain or snow.There are some edible plants, but the growing season is short.  You may not have the necessary equipment to catch animals.  In summer, mosquitoes can be plentiful and relentless. During the rest of the year, frostbite is always a danger.

Search and rescue can be hours or days away, depending on weather conditions.

And there are always polar bears to consider. They may look cuddly on TV, but polar bears are fearless, fast and often hungry.

While weight considerations are important, think about adding the following:

- full body immersion suits (and wear them for water crossing!) Here are a couple by Mustang and Helly Hansen

- signalling device attached to the suit, so that it goes with you as you leave your aircraft.

- blaze orange bags, tape, sheets or other means of making yourself visible to search aircraft. You or your small plane can be very hard to see from search aircraft.  Make the search easier by having bright coloured material.

- sleeping bags or parkas; space blanket

- a well-equipped first aid kit

- a small tent to shelter from wind and rain;

- high calorie food to go with water purification tablets or equipment;

- solid fuel and waterproof matches

- hand/foot warmer packets; extra heavy socks; warm hat.

- pepper spray for bears; insect repellent or bug jacket

This list isn't a complete list either. It is just to help you get thinking about what you can bring that can help save your life if you end up down somewhere new and strange.  A Canadian company called Crashkit sells prepackaged survival kits, which may be an answer for those unfamiliar wth the range of items useful in a survival kit.  They also sell prepackaged warmers and other useful stuff.

Doug Ritter's site Equipped to Survive has reviews of some available survival equipment, and updates on some of the satellite tracking systems, like SPOT. Orolia SAS provides a 406 mhz Personal Locator beacon called Fast Find. And Pointer Avionics has just recently introduced their SkyHunter406, a new in-aircraft ELT unit with built in GPS. There are also others more advanced systems on the market, like SpidertracksLatitude Web Sentinel, and SkytracAircraft Spruce Canada also has a page showing a number of the different ELT/PLB devices on the market.

Organizations like Survival Systems Training , Aviation Egress Training Systems and Pro Aviation Safety Training provide courses on surviving an aircraft ditching.

Our Tips and Advice article also has a few thoughts on electronic ways of making your whereabouts known.

A Cautionary Tale:

Survivors on the iceIn December 2008, two pilots flying a Cessna Skymaster lost both engines while crossing the Hudson Strait en route from Wabush, Labrador to Iqaluit, Nunavut.  Skillful piloting brought the plane down onto the water next to an ice pan, giving them enough time to scramble out of the plane.  But they had no time to get ANYTHING out before the plane sank to the bottom of the Strait.  And no signal was available from their ELT when the plane sank.  Luckily they were wearing their immersion suits. The suits saved their lives.

But they spent a long, cold night on the ice. Even though search planes were in the area within an hour of them ditching, they had no means of signalling the searchers. It was dark and heavily overcast. They were found by a ship the next morning while the Canadian Forces Hercules search plane was back in Iqaluit refuelling.

The photo above, taken from the bridge of the ship, shows you just how small two people can be in the midst of the arctic ice. Here's the CADORS report on the incident from Transport Canada.




Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 21:38
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