173rd Fighter Wing participates in water survival training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Penny Snoozy
  • 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing spent one day training in water survival skills at Lake of the Woods in Southern Oregon July 22, 2016.

The aircrew flight equipment section worked in conjunction with a Coast Guard rescue swimmer and helicopter from North Bend to train all of the F-15 pilots stationed at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore.

The tri-annual training covers the basic skills necessary for a pilot to survive an ejection over water. The first portion of this training focused on the skills to detach from the parachute, navigate out from underneath a water-logged parachute, and entering the life raft included with their survival gear.

Master Sgt. Kenneth Shearer, 173rd FW aircrew flight equipment, explained that each pilot simulates being pulled through the water by a parachute by hauling them while attached to the flight harness from a boat for 500 feet. This gives the pilots hands on experience, "...to get the right body posture and release from their harness so they stay above water," added Shearer.

"It is a lot of fun," said Shearer.  "But there's a lot of work that goes into getting the different agencies together to make this happen."

One of those agencies was the Klamath County Sherriff's Office, who provided a dive and rescue team along with patrol boats to maintain a secure and safe training zone for the Airmen.

The final segment of the training allows the pilots the experience of a water rescue via helicopter.  The Coast Guard helicopter dropped a basket into the water for their aviation survival technician Petty Officer 3rd Class Brendan Davis. Davis, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, who safely loaded the pilots into the basket where they were hoisted into the air approximately twenty feet before being lowered back into the water.

Maj. Victor Knill, 114th Fighter Squadron pilot, says he found this year's training to be eye-opening. Knill chose not to wear the anti-exposure suit for the training and found that even in the July summer heat, he was extremely cold for, "six to nine hours afterwards."

"I could not imagine being in a real world situation under the stress of ejecting and then having to survive in the water, without that suit on, while waiting for an unknown amount of time to be rescued," said Knill.

Knill said this type of refresher training allows the pilots to become familiar with the equipment, thus maximizing their survival time in the event of an ejection. 
After the last pilot was back on the docks, Davis signaled the helicopter to lower the last harness that lifted him out of the water, and back into the helicopter for refueling and departure.

"Our AFE shop did a fantastic job of coordinating and setting everything up, making this year's training flawless and setting the standard even higher for the next time we do this," added Knill.

The 173rd FW is home to the sole F-15C training base for the Unites States Air Force and Air National Guard.