Just in Case.......
We don’t like to have to consider the possibility of going down and being stranded anywhere, but a little bit of preparation can prevent it being a dire situation.
Travelling in company with another aircraft is always advisable. If one has to go down, the other can GPS mark the spot and go and find assistance. Be very cautious of trying to land the second aircraft as well – could just end up with two stranded......
Of course an ELT is essential for all flying. Mine lives in the aircraft all the time. And they are really effective these days. Anywhere in Australia, setting off an ELT will have aircraft over you within a day, probably just hours. Have your VHF ready on the area frequency to talk to them when in range.
But triggering an ELT starts off a serious search and rescue process involving the authorities. If I was just stranded by engine problems or a damaged landing gear, and was uninjured, I wouldn’t really like to start off that official process unless absolutely necessary. First I would use my UHF to see if by chance there was someone local within range – every vehicle out that way has a UHF. I have a UHF installed and often keep it on ‘scan’ to keep track of which channels are in use in that area. Road crews and mustering crews can often be heard at work, and 4WD tourists chattering. The range from the air is considerable, so if I could get a call away to someone at that time it would be really useful. The range from ground level is very limited, but worth a chance, because these are exactly the fellas who can be the most help without a lot of fuss. I would at least carry a small UHF hand-held. Next I would get on the VHF area frequency and try to reach an aircraft. (I carry a ‘Class G and E Frequency Planning Chart’, with the area frequencies for both flight levels. ) With the other aircraft at IFR altitude the range is considerable, even when I’m on the ground. Such voice communication gives the opportunity to give a GPS location and explain the situation without causing a rescue panic. I’d be asking them to contact the nearest police station to ask them to arrange for someone local to come and assist. I always carry several hundred dollars in cash to pay for such services if needed. They’re all very generous in those parts, but I’m certainly prepared to pay for the service when they leave what they’re doing and use their vehicles to help out, while I’m just ‘playing around’ out there in the first place.
The next essential bit of equipment is a signalling mirror. It's really hard to spot someone on the ground in that big country, but a flash from a mirror really catches attention. But you do need to try it out before hand, and learn how to aim correctly. The mirror needs to have a hole in the middle. Hold the mirror up to your eye with the reflective side away, and sight the target through the hole in the middle. Reach out the other arm with the tip of your thumb up for a sight just below the target. Adjust the mirror so that the reflected light centers on that thumb tip. Try it out sometime, that light can be seen for miles, and if kept up for a couple of minutes it really gets attention. An outdated and useless CD makes a good signalling mirror, and the cost is just right.
Survival (comfort) Equipment
This is standard equipment that I carry in my aircraft at all times, even local flying. There's always the possibility of being stranded overnight or maybe more, by weather or a mechanical problem, and this can make the stranding lots more comfortable.
I carry a minimum of 3 litres per person, plus several drink bottles for day use. The 3 litres is held strictly in reserve, and the drink bottles are topped up whenever refuelling, and stowed in different parts of the aircraft. This is for following roads; for remote or difficult access areas then at least 10 litres is required. Those backpack water bags are the best way to carry the reserve water – they pack away easily and are very tough and impact resistant.
In outback areas there’s more water out there than you see from the road. From the air you can spot the dams or bores for stock watering – if there’s cattle or sheep then there has to be watering points. Always keep a watch for those water points, and if the engine quits, a landing near one is a big advantage. Also, there’ll be a vehicle track to the water point. Landing on a vehicle track is usually a much better option, and also makes access to assisting vehicles easier.
One of the most essential bits of survival gear to carry at all times, is a couple of those reflective ‘space blankets’. They roll up small and weigh next to nothing, but they can be a real saviour from either heat or cold. If caught out without tent and sleeping bag in cold wet conditions, squat down with knees against your chest and the blanket wrapped over your head and around the body, with reflective side in – this way you can retain body heat to survive. In very hot conditions, drape the reflective blanket over a bush, with reflective side up, and burrow under it and lie really still. Try to be as dormant as possible to cut down on muscle effort that builds heat and uses precious water.
Don't laugh, but thermal underwear is really worthwile. Weighs nothing and packs away small, but can make a real difference in comfort while sleeping out.....
I carry several tubes of sweetened condensed milk for sustenance. The sugar gives quick energy, the protien and fat in the milk sustain. If you have a billycan to heat water, it makes a very comforting and warming drink. If nothing else you can just suck it directly from the tube. Dehydrated foods such as meat jerky are real no-no for survival; they require extra water for digestion, and it's not protien that you need at that time, it's energy.
All this nonsense about running around catching 'bush tucker' is a total waste of energy; better just to hunker down and conserve energy. Most of us carry a couple of kilos of fat that can sustain for several days. Also, don't count on a plastic sheet over a hole in the ground, or a plastic bag over a bush, to catch enough water to be usefull; try it some day in dry country and see how much you really do get....