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AOPA Online Members Only -- Aviation Subject Report -- Survival Equipment and RequirementsAOPA Online Members Only -- Aviation Subject Report -- Survival Equipment and Requirements

Survival Equipment and Requirements

Table of Contents


The FAA regulations listed below specify requirements for the approval and use of all survival equipment for overwater operations. This includes but is not limited to: certification, inspection and maintenance, operations, and storage location aboard aircraft.

Survival equipment requirements vary with the specific type of aircraft operations under either Part 91 or Part 135, and also with whether or not the aircraft being operated is a large turbo or turbine aircraft versus a smaller general aviation aircraft. Aircraft owners and operators will have to make sure any survival equipment purchased or rented meets the operational requirements. However, if an aircraft is being operated for compensation or hire, then the equipment is mandatory.

Type Equipment

All survival equipment must be manufactured to specification and requirements of the FAA. The FAA assigns specific TSO (technical standard order) that apply. If any equipment used on board any aircraft does not have a TSO number, then the equipment is not permitted to be used for that aircraft operation or flight over water.

TSO Specifications

The table below lists FAA-approved TSO survival equipment.

TSO Number Date Equipment
TSO-C13F 9/24/92 Life Preservers
TSO-C70A 4/13/84 Life Rafts
TSO-C72C 2/19/87 Individual Inflation Devices
TSO-C85A 3/7/96 Survivor Locator Lights
TSO-C91A 4/29/85 ELTs

Life Rafts/Life Vests

While there is no specific FAA requirement for small general aviation aircraft to have life rafts or life preservers on board when making any water crossing, common sense tells you these should be carried. However, ICAO regulations require it when traveling internationally. Canadian regulation requires it when departing Canada for Atlantic crossings. When the aircraft is operated for compensation or hire, the compliance requirement is mandatory under the FAA. Life rafts/vests come equipped with inflation devices. These devices are in the form of small carbon dioxide (CO 2) compressed gas cylinders. The amount of gas and size of the cylinders depends on the size of the life raft.

Life vests are usually pretty standard with small cartridges containing approximately 16-33 grams of gas for inflation. Life raft cylinders, on the other hand, can be the size of small portable fire extinguishers. Regardless of the size, these cylinders are regulated by 49 CFR Part 172.101 of the Department of Transportation-Hazardous Materials Branch (DOT). When transporting or offering equipment for transportation for return to manufacturer or service centers, the proper DOT hazardous materials shipping requirements must be met.

This specifically includes proper packing, marking, labeling, and documenting the shipment. If you are unable to comply with these requirements, it is best to contact an official hazardous material package and packing expert for assistance. It is well worth the small price to pay versus the fines and penalties for noncompliance. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on Carbon Dioxide (CO 2) is available online. The MSDS shows the general information and the proper shipping name and description to meet the hazardous material regulatory shipping requirements. The MSDS also contains information on the CO 2 gas in the event of a cylinder rupture or incident exposing the gas. The MSDS should be carried as part of the documents for the equipment.

Equipment Suppliers and Service Centers

It is the responsibility of the aircraft owner/operator to make certain all survival equipment is properly maintained, inspected, and serviced as required by FAR Part 43. A comprehensive list of equipment suppliers and service centers can be found online. If the equipment has special manufacturer recommendations for other service centers, then the owner/operator should comply with manufacturer recommendations or requirements.

Web Links For Survival Products

The Web links below identify various manufacturers, suppliers, service centers, and regulatory agencies and are an excellent reference source.

Articles From AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training

Survival Instincts
It's good to be prepared
By Phil Scott
AOPA Pilot, October 2005

It was the wide-open prairie, which got me thinking: What if I did have to make a real emergency landing, but the emergency locator transmitter (ELT) didn't work, or I didn't have time to radio my position to air traffic control, and I didn't file a flight plan, or, let's see...what else...oh, my transponder had died or gave an erroneous reading, and I was around 1,000 miles off course like in the movie Cast Away or the television program Lost, and I had to spend more than an hour out here without a convenience store nearby?

Turbine Pilot: Would You Be Ready?
Emergency-procedures training for corporate aviation
By Vincent Czaplyski
AOPA Pilot, August 2005

How well prepared are you to escape from an airplane full of dense smoke and fumes following a landing mishap? Could you handle an in-flight medical emergency, or survive the aftermath of a night ditching? Putting aside for a moment the more typical kinds of emergency situations we pilots tend to fret about (like flying the airplane when an engine fails after takeoff), the truthful answers to questions like these are likely "not very" and "maybe."

Survival gear of the fittest
By Dave Wilkerson
AOPA Flight Training, January 2004

While the FAA addresses emergency equipment and survival gear in several PTS documents, we will focus on the Private Pilot PTS, which asks that you exhibit "knowledge of the elements related to emergency equipment and survival gear appropriate to the airplane and environment encountered during flight."

Survival Scenarios
Down, But Not Out
By Mark W. Danielson
AOPA Flight Training, November 2002

Bracing yourself, you release the seat belt and quickly fall to the ceiling. Finding some familiar reference points, you locate the door handle. After a few good kicks, you manage to force the door open, grab your coat, and climb out. Now what? You are in the middle of nowhere wearing trousers, loafers, and a midweight jacket. As you watch the sun set you can feel the temperature drop.

Improving Your Chances
Underwater evacuation training for GA pilots
By Barry Schiff
AOPA Pilot, December 2001

In article about ditching was of interest because his job involved single-engine operations over bays, large lakes, and shorelines. He recognized that even when within gliding distance of land, there are times when an engine failure could result in ditching because a forced landing on hostile terrain might be the less-desirable alternative. Webster was startled to read facts taken from a government study stating that more than two-thirds of those who perish are not injured from the ditching itself but from failure to extricate themselves from the aircraft and subsequent drowning.

Survival In The Water
Learning The Elements Of Ditching
AOPA Flight Training, June 2000

It's almost unimaginable that I'm sinking, but the rush of water into the cockpit is indisputable. In seconds, it boils up over my waist, and the surface slants at a crazy angle as the fuselage rolls. If the jarring impact wasn't disorienting enough, the shock of the cold water completes the job. I suck in my last breath of air, take stock of the situation, and fight down the swell of fright that rises up from my gut.

Flying Smart: The Long Wait
What To Do Until Help Arrives
By Christopher L. Parker
AOPA Flight Training, December 1999

A common misconception among pilots is that if a flight plan is filed and an aircraft goes down, search and rescue (SAR) forces will arrive fairly soon. However, the truth is that even though the SAR system is excellent and it works, it takes a fair amount of time to "mobilize the forces." This means that even if a flight plan is filed, it may take several hours or a couple of days before search parties arrive at the site. So, in the unlikely event you should go down, plan on spending the night.

Proficient Pilot: A tough sell
By Barry Schiff
AOPA Pilot, July 1996

Safety is a tough sell. Ask anyone who manufactures or markets fire extinguishers, survival equipment, first-aid kits, life jackets, and so forth. One such salesman lamented to me that pilots spend thousands on new avionics and other gadgets but seldom equip themselves or their aircraft with inexpensive items that could save their lives.

Prepared to Survive
Packing a kit that can save your life
By Douglas S. Ritter
AOPA Pilot, April 1996

A well-stocked survival kit can turn this unexpected completion of your flight into little more than an impromptu camping experience. On the other hand, without some basic outdoors equipment, survival could become a grueling test of your will to live, your resourcefulness, and — to a great extent — your luck.

Never Again: A Tern in the tundra
By R.L. (Butch) Loper
AOPA Pilot, May 1995

Had we not packed for a 10-day hunt with plenty of food, water, clothing, and tools, our chances of survival would have been marginal, given the IFR conditions, terrain, and temperature. The airplane was repaired on-site with a new landing gear and wing strut and flown out within a week of our rescue.

Posted Friday, October 14, 2005 10:15:12 AM