Marco Island over-water survival certification

Maj Motyl-Szary
Marco Island Senior Squadron, Florida Wing, Civil Air Patrol
It is not that easy to climb into the raft (the two members are fully vaccinated).

All the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Squadrons located in Southwest Florida go through specialty training in over water survival (OWS) because of our proximity to the ocean. We are often tasked to perform missions that take us along the coastline but “beyond gliding distance of land.” To qualify to perform these missions all aircrew members must have OWS certification.

Additionally, for any CAP squadron to participate in these missions, the CAP aircraft must be equipped with a suitable life raft, and all aircrew members must wear a personal flotation device (PFD).

Two members (fully vaccinated) attempt to right the raft and climb inside.

The water survival certification process begins with taking an online course and then passing the accompanying test. The course topics focus on proven procedures and techniques for emergency water landings. The practical exercises allow participants to apply the processes and assimilate the steps until they become second nature. Egress from the airplane is one of those exercises where the raft is thrown out of the aircraft, and the crewmembers exit the plane in a minimum amount of time. Camaraderie and encouragements from the rest of the squad help accomplish the training successfully.

After passing the test, aircrew members attend an online virtual classroom, instructor-led review. Finally, the aircraft egress training, and a pool session complete the training curriculum. The certification process must be repeated every three years to stay current.

Recently, the Marco Island CAP Squadron conducted one of these training sessions at the Marco Island Executive Airport. There were 10 participants. Training started with ground exercises in the squadron's airplane, where students formed up into typical aircrews and practiced aircraft evacuation in a simulated emergency. The training concluded at the Greater Marco Island Family YMCA where swimming tests were conducted, and aircrew members practiced life raft righting and entry.

Training and certification classes are conducted throughout the state, with the Marco Squadron class typically conducted in March. Squadron Training Officer, Major Dave Walsh noted, “We are called upon every month to conduct off-shore missions and therefore it is very important that our membership is trained and ready to take on the task.”

Because of strict COVID-preventive procedures, all members wore masks and observed appropriate, safe distancing. Instead of training as a group, the participants were divided into teams of two or three, as an additional precautionary measure against the spread of the virus and infections.

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