You may have caught the in the news that two young men who ditched their ultra-light aircraft into chilly Bass Strait waters owed their lives to two inflatable mattresses they had purchased before their flight.
The Australian’s headline read “Saved by an air mattress: Mates ditched ultra-light plane in Bass Strait and clung to a lilo while awaiting rescue”
There is no doubt that these two fellows were extremely lucky to be rescued – with nothing more than mild hypothermia to show for their adventure, and nursing a $28 000 bill for their uninsured aircraft.
However this is a bit more to the story.
Before crashing, the pilot was able to contact air traffic controllers who in turn alerted AMSA, the national search and rescue authority.
Thankfully before they departed, a friend fearful for their safety, insisted on them donning life jackets. He also loaned the pair his personal locater beacon (PLB). Before the aircraft ditched, the pair activated the beacon, and this was the smartest decision they made all day.
Once the beacon was detected, AMSA tasked two helicopters and one fixed wing aircraft, a water police launch and diverted a yacht to effect the rescue. The reason they were able to locate the pair in the water in such a short time was the fact that they had the presence of mind to activate their 406 distress beacon, and to hold on to it. The beacon signal enabled the rescuers to proceed directly to the pair and rescue them, around two hours after they had ditched.
If it wasn’t for their beacon, rescuers would have been confronted with a massive search area.
If it wasn’t for the radio call, they would not have been reported overdue until they had failed to land at Newcastle. An impossibly large search area.
So yes, whilst the lilos helped keep them afloat, the reason these young men are alive today is because they had a couple of additional pieces of equipment that saved their lives.
What is your remote communication plan?
Source: Hobart Mercury – 30 Oct 2013 We nearly gave up – By Richard Noone and Ellen Whinnett