Survival Gear for a Small Plane

It’s a topic that has about the same appeal as going to the dentist – not something you want to talk about, but you can’t help be fascinated by it. We are talking about survival gear choices for pilots. Nobody wants to think about crashing, but if it happens, you should have already worked out the details so that you have the best chance of survival.

A friend of ours flew medevac helicopters during the Vietnam War. He said that the only survival gear you can really count on is what you have on your person. In other words, you can not assume that gear stashed in the baggage compartment or anywhere else will be useable because it may not survive or be accessible after a crash. Also, if you have to egress the cockpit immediately you may not be able to recover whatever is inside the aircraft. That is not to say you shouldn’t stow survival gear onboard your plane or helicopter– in fact, it’s a necessity. However, our suggestion is to put some thought into carrying some additional essentials in your pockets.

Any place you fly will have its unique survival situation. Areas of snow or cold temperatures will require different gear than desert. A mountain, large bodies of water, rocky terrain, and remote wilderness all present different survival gear scenarios.

When flying in the Yukon, because most of the ground is mountainous terrain and bush, we always carry a magnesium fire starter, backup matches, pocketknife, compass, and a few candy bars. Other essentials we can make ourselves from the surroundings – including a digging stick, shelter from tree branches, and leaves.

Cell phones are usually in-operable because the area is so remote, but if stranded you can always light a smoky fire to attract attention from search planes flying overhead.

Carrying coiled fishing line with hooks is something else that pilots should have with them. However, a word of caution: Secure whatever you put in your pockets so sharp items will not impale or otherwise hurt you in the event of a hard landing. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can easily get carried away with hauling around too much survival gear so be prepared to travel lightly.