February 1, 2010
By Ian J. Twombly
Unfortunately things can and do go wrong in airplanes. Making it out of any situation demands the best training and calm under pressure. But the right gear doesn’t hurt either. Think just because you’re not flying over sparesly populated mountains means you don’t need to carry the basics? Think again. Even the sardine pack of the East Coast has vast areas of dense woods and requires some amount of survival equipment. We’ve compiled a sampling of what’s going to get you out of trouble when it comes knocking.
Inexpensive tracking and access to GPS-derived position for search and rescue is a reality thanks to the wildly popular SPOT. The new SPOT 2 keeps the features of the old version while adding upgrades pilots will love. The check in and track button has been separated, allowing pilots to easily send a text or e-mail message to loved ones either once or every 10 minutes. But SPOT 2 really exists for the emergency feature, which when activated will send people looking for you immediately ( see “Saved by a Satellite,”). A new internal GPS makes finding you that much easier.
Price: $149.95; $99.99 a year activation Contact: www.findmespot.com
Reviewer comments: Bob Knill, AOPA application support engineer Private, instrument, 300 hours.
“I really liked it, and even though I was never in a life-threatening situation, it felt good knowing I had another set of eyes on me any time I wanted them.”
If you want serious search and rescue protection, you may want to turn to a personal locator beacon (PLB). They are robust, don’t require a yearly activation fee, and make finding someone as easy as walking to a coordinate. ACR’s SARLink is one of the best on the market.
Price: Suggested price $499, can be found much cheaper online Contact: www.acrelectronics.com
Reviewer comments: Patrick Smith, aviation technical specialist, AOPA Pilot Information Center Commercial, CFI, 1,650 hours.
“I even explained its emergency operation to my wife, who is not at all technologically inclined. ‘Remove this cover, press red button.’”
It gets cold out there sometimes. Having the space blanket gives you that extra little bit of protection from the elements, which could make the difference in a bad situation. This one from REI gets rave reviews and is worth the low price.
Price: $14 Contact: www.rei.com
Reviewer comments: Ian J. Twombly, AOPA associate editor Commercial, CFI, 1,050 hours.
“I could feel the warmth even on a cold night with no sun.”
So you may not be dressing your own meat for survival or hacking your way through a jungle, but there’s something to be said for having a good knife set on board. This is especially true for those who might camp often or really need the right tool at the right time.
Price: $89.95 Contact: www.sportys.com; sold as the Ultimate Bush Pilot Tools
Reviewer comments: Alton K. Marsh, AOPA senior editor ATP, CFI, 2,800 hours.
“You could drive a truck over these and it would be the tires that suffer, not the tools.”
Face it: You should have a fire extinguisher in your airplane. the RT A600 from H3R represents one of the best that you can get. In fact, it comes standard on many aircraft today, so what are you waiting for?
Price: MSRP $168, can be found cheaper online. Contact: www.h3raviation.com;
Reviewer comments: Craig Brown, senior technical specialist, AOPA Pilot Information Center ATP, CFI, A&P, 9,800 hours.
“The weight is practically negligible..”
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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