What's in YOUR Cockpit?

Central Oregon

I spent most of my life living - and flying - in the middle of the country. It's hard to find places between the Rockies and the east coast where you can't find civilization in a reasonable number of miles. Heck, keep ten thousand feet of air between you and the earth, and you'll almost always be able to reach a runway! But the west is different.

Flying between the Reno (NV) area and Yakima (WA), level at 10.5K, I looked out and realized that there was nothing but the wilds of central Oregon for as far as I could see - and with western visibilities, I could see a LONG way. It's magnificent, and frankly, there are lots of places to safely put an airplane down if the oil pressure went away, or a fuel line got blocked... but after you find a smooth patch of desert, a lakebed, or a dirt road, and all the pieces stop moving - what then? Do you have a plan? Are you equipped?

Flying along in shorts and a T-shirt are great when your longest walk for help is a few miles. But out here, you could be fifty , or eighty miles (or more) from help. And those who study out-in-the-boonies landings are adamant that "if you're not wearing it, you don't have it." So when I fly this kind of cross-country, I wear a vest with various elements of survival gear - the most important being a small GPS-Enabled PLB. There are thousands of different lists you can find on the internet for everything else you might want in your pockets - but getting found is the big one.

In the winter - I throw in cold-weather gear. In the summer, well, it can STILL get cold at night, so cool-weather gear isn't a bad idea. Sun protection - always. And don't forget water. If you've got that PLB, and you've registered it, food shouldn't be necessary, except to keep you busy until the cavalry arrives.

It's a big world out here, and "walking out" can mean a week's worth of hiking. Fly equipped so that if a bad day happens, you don't have to think about survival - you can just fly the airplane to a good safe landing, knowing that once you're stopped - you got this.

Paul Dye

Paul Dye, Kitplanes® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the space shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and a Subsonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor, and Flight Advisor, as well as a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

3 Replies to “What's in YOUR Cockpit?”

  1. Agree completely! Flew while in the Navy, so I bought an SV-2 survival vest. Water, space blanket, first aid kit, flares and smokes. And carry a InReach PRB in one of the pockets of my cargo pants and a portable aviation radio in the vest. And I fly with 8" boots with hardened toes. Also have a backpack pop up tent, extra food tied down in the back, etc. I fly as I was trained, with equipment I trained or am familiar with. Nothing I couldn't walk out with if I had to.

  2. Forgot to say, I grew up in the Cascade Mts. Hunting, Fishing, WORKING. Weather can change rapidly, even with a PRB it could go so bad a helo couldn't get to you, so ground crews are next. If I can walk, I will, meet them halfway.

  3. I was trained at RCAF survival schools. I then had to apply first hand what I learned in a bail out. The first thing you do is first aid. You will be thirsty and dehydrated from the adrenalin of a forced landing or bail out. A camel back with 1 gallon of water is a must. Then a fire. Then shelter. Then food. Stay with the airplane! The PLB/ELT/ADSB will get help to the aircraft. Trying to walk out will only confuse and delay rescue attempts.

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