1. #1
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    Default Small airplane crash response

    I'm a member of the Civil Air Patrol which is very often the first folks on-scene at small aircraft crash sites. In almost all cases it is very obvious that there are no survivors and we basically guard the site until the local authorities show up.

    However, we do find survivors every once in a while and may have to gain access to one of these small planes (usually single or double engine prop planes) before the local fire department can get there. For example, if someone was stuck in the plane and the fuel tank was leaking with a high risk of fire. In these cases, are you aware of any particularly good training resources regarding extrication from small aircraft?
    Last edited by auxman; 04-28-2009 at 09:20 AM.

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    This might end up being an unpopular answer, but if the person cannot self-extricate themself from their own aircraft, it's best to leave them alone until properly trained personnel arrive because you may exascerbate their injuries. If the plane is leaking fuel, the best thing you can do is attempt to shut off fuel and disconnecting the battery without risking more injury to the patient (if you can get to it).

    -Damien

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    I suppose I'm looking for the resources so that we can get properly trained. Even then, we're probably only talking about a handful of incidents across the US every year where this might be necessary.

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    For the most part I agree with DFurtman.

    Aircraft rescue isn't as easy as a lot of people may think. Being civil air patrol you probably know what it takes, however, the "common man" doesn't.

    I spent four years in the Air Force Fire Department and in those four years I trained on all sorts of aircraft. Most of them were similar, but if you didn't know the differences you could get someone seriously hurt. You could ask my old TSGT that one. He dropped a roof hatch on a C-17 and nearly killed three guys inside.

    As for your specific question...I would think if there was immediate threat to life... do what you can, but be very careful in that you and the person your trying to save could be seriously hurt in the process.
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    My suggestion is the same. In a life threatening situation where the plane is already on fire or some exigent circumstances, then do what you can. Otherwise, leave them alone. Shut off the fuel and disconnect the batteries, IF you are able to. If you have reached the plane and it wasn't already burning, chances are it won't. The biggest danger in any plane crash is fire due to the fuel and the hot engines. If you cut the fuel and disconnect the battery, or at least shut the main power off, chances of fire are greatly reduced.

    Then you just treat the basics, breathing and bleeding until help can arrive. The best thing you can do is give a good "first in" report of how the victim is trapped, what will be needed to get them free, the extent of their injuries, and hazardous cargo, and maybe the closest landing zone for a medical helicopter or the best way to transport out of there. Maybe an ATV will be needed. You would be the eyes of the responding people of the resources needed. You would also be the victims lifeline and be prepared to support them until they get free.

    Good question though.
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    after thinking about this a bit, I just had one more thinking point to add..

    Remember the last time you stepped on a G/A plane.. Remember how much it moved around, bounced or whatnot? any little move could risk the patient when you step on the wing or open the door.. other things that need to be addressed are chocking the tires and/or stabilizing the scene. Also, touching, adjusting or moving anything just adds you to the FAA investigation.

    //EDIT// Do NOT take this as me advising you to go underneath an aircraft that has been in an accident. DO NOT GO UNDER THE MISHAP AIRCRAFT AT ANY POINT! The aircraft needs to be shored up and stabilized.

    -Damien
    Last edited by DFurtman; 04-28-2009 at 06:41 PM.

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    We're very sensitive to the investigative aspects of plane crashes. Quite frankly we're usually the ones reminding other agencies to leave stuff alone unless they absoluletly have to move it.

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    Its a really crappy situation to be in and in most cases it is damned if you do, damned if you don't.

    The battery is is often located after of the rear seats and will not be accessible to disconnect. You will at all times have power up to the panel at the master switch. Part of every forced landing checklist is shutting off the master before you "land". This may or may not actually happen and if it is still on, then the entire instrument panel and all devices attached to it are live. However there is nothing that can be done to disconnect the power from the battery up to the instrument panel.

    There is also no way to shut off the fuel at the tanks or anywhere else. The fuel shut off is in the cabin. You'll find it either in the middle on the floor in front of the seat or on the left side footwell. It may be a single on/off or a left/right/both/off type of thing. As long as there is gravity, fuel will continue to flow out any break in that fuel line leading up to the fuel shut off. If the fuel is left on (also supposed to be turned of on the checklist), then it can just keep flowing out the front too. There is also an electric fuel pump that could be left running if the emergency checklist was not completed. It will be a switch on the instrument panel.

    Gaining entry into a small aircraft is not much different than gaining entry into a car. There are just less doors and the windows are plastic or lexan. If a car is mangled up, you'll need big tools to get in. If the plane is mangled up, you'll need big tools to get in. Another step in every forced landing checklist is pop the doors open before "landing" to prevent them from getting jammed shut. This again may or may not happen. Prey that it does. There may be a baggage door on the side in the back you can try but it will probably be just as messed up as the rest of the plane.

    If you can safely gain entry to the aircraft:
    • Shut off the battery master switch on the instrument panel
    • Shut off the fuel if you can locate the shut off lever
    • Pull the red lever next to the throttle all the way back (if there is one)
    • Turn the ignition key to off
    • Unless you can relay your exact location to S&R, look for a switch on the left side labeled "ELT" and switch it to ON.
    • Do not touch the landing gear or flaps levers. This could critically destabilize the plane!

    The above list pertains to most piston engine single and twin engine prop planes.
    Last edited by nmfire; 04-29-2009 at 07:22 AM.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Excellent post nmfire!!
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    NMFire Pretty well summed it up for me, so I won't go over it again, but one question remains: How the heck do you get to a plane crash ahead of Fire/Rescue? Our last crash here was within sight of the Airport, but we were there several minutes ahead of Airport Personnel. We have a small G/A field about 2-3 miles southeast of the station, and it has what most consider a good safety record, with only a few crashes over the years.

    In Maryland, When a Crash happens, people with knowledge of the emergency MUST call 911 and report it. (Maryland Law requires this) When Fire/Rescue arrives, they are in charge until FAA or NTSB shows up. Law enforcement is in charge if Fire/Rescue sees no need to retain command. The Exception is Military Craft, and it's their operation as soon as they arrive. We will assist them and any other agency at any time, if requested. As far as CAP, I don't recall seeing them at a crash here at any time.
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    The OP is a member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). In simplistic terms, CAP is a civilian auxillary branch of the air force who's most prevelent mission is airborne search and rescue. CAP is not utilized when there is no need for S&R, which is why you've never heard of them. You don't need sarch & rescue to find plane that just crashed into an urban/suburban area since 100 people probably witnessed it go down and called 911.

    CAP is scrambled most often for one of two missions. First is overdue aircraft. If I file a flight plan, I have a route and ETA listed on it. If after a certain amount of time has passed, I don't call flight service to close the flight plan, they will start to worry about me. They will try to contact me and the airport I was supposed to land at to see if I just forgot. If unreachable and they can't find me at any other airports, they assume the worst and CAP is launched to look for my wreck somewhere along my route.

    The other scenario is ELT activations. And ELT is a 121.5mhz or 406Mhz beacon that is automatically activated upon an "impact". It transmits a constant whooping siren kind of noise until it is manually deactivated. When the air force's COPAS-SARSAT system detects an ELT disress beacon, it will triangulate it down to a certain area. The air force will then relay that information to CAP who will initiate an air and ground search of the area. The area is usually very large and the aircraft are equiped with radio direction finding equipment (like LOJACK). As long as the ELT is transmitting, CAP can track it down. A few months ago, the sattilitte monitoring of 121.5 was phased out however the beacons are still in use, just without sattilittle coverge. The newer 406Mhz beacons are are taking the place of the 121.5 devices are far more reliable.

    The Personal Locator Device ("PLB") is a 406Mhz ELT with a GPS receiver built in. When activated, it will also relay your identification, and coordinates to the SARSAT system. This is obviously the most accurate and expedicious way of getting help. They can be built into the aircraft or handheld.

    This entire concept is the same system used on boats. Except on a boat it is called an EPIRB and it floats.
    Last edited by nmfire; 05-01-2009 at 11:04 AM.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    nmfire pretty much said it all. I am a volunteer firefighter with several small airports in our rural area. I also used to be a member of Civil Air Patrol when i was younger. When a plane goes down in an unknown location, many resources are called out, CAP being one of them. They are trained to search by using the ELT signal and trying to hone in on its location. Example: when JFK Junior's plane crashed, CAP was activated. I am located in NJ and our NJ Wing only made it as far as staging until they were able to determine it had gone down in the water and was in the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard.

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    FYI, CAP is doing these searches in coordination with the state emergency mgt agency and under the direction of the Air Force.

    Most of the time CAP will find the crash from the air and then guide in folks on the ground. Most of the time in those situations, the local police and/or fire folks will go in right along with the CAP ground team, but many times CAP will have a ground search team in the vicinity and will be there well ahead of the local authorities. Or in many cases, since the search area CAP was using could be up to the size of half the state there will be almost no involvement by local authorities until we pin it down -- waste of their resources to participate until we know the target is actually somewhere in their vicinity.

  14. #14
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    Thumbs up Yep...........

    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    The OP is a member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). In simplistic terms, CAP is a civilian auxillary branch of the air force who's most prevelent mission is airborne search and rescue. CAP is not utilized when there is no need for S&R, which is why you've never heard of them. You don't need sarch & rescue to find plane that just crashed into an urban/suburban area since 100 people probably witnessed it go down and called 911.

    CAP is scrambled most often for one of two missions. First is overdue aircraft. If I file a flight plan, I have a route and ETA listed on it. If after a certain amount of time has passed, I don't call flight service to close the flight plan, they will start to worry about me. They will try to contact me and the airport I was supposed to land at to see if I just forgot. If unreachable and they can't find me at any other airports, they assume the worst and CAP is launched to look for my wreck somewhere along my route.

    The other scenario is ELT activations. And ELT is a 121.5mhz or 406Mhz beacon that is automatically activated upon an "impact". It transmits a constant whooping siren kind of noise until it is manually deactivated. When the air force's COPAS-SARSAT system detects an ELT disress beacon, it will triangulate it down to a certain area. The air force will then relay that information to CAP who will initiate an air and ground search of the area. The area is usually very large and the aircraft are equiped with radio direction finding equipment (like LOJACK). As long as the ELT is transmitting, CAP can track it down. A few months ago, the sattilitte monitoring of 121.5 was phased out however the beacons are still in use, just without sattilittle coverge. The newer 406Mhz beacons are are taking the place of the 121.5 devices are far more reliable.

    The Personal Locator Device ("PLB") is a 406Mhz ELT with a GPS receiver built in. When activated, it will also relay your identification, and coordinates to the SARSAT system. This is obviously the most accurate and expedicious way of getting help. They can be built into the aircraft or handheld.

    This entire concept is the same system used on boats. Except on a boat it is called an EPIRB and it floats.

    Thanks for filling in the blanks.
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    Happens here in the northwoods of Wisconsin too. CAP is used quite often really, maybe even a couple times a year.
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    Of the couple or so small plane crashes that I've been too, either they are heavy with fire or not burning. If the people inside can exit themselves then they do that. If not we treat it like a MVA and assest the folks for injuries and act on that.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

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    I agree to leave them alone, if you scrape something together and it ignites, then you have nothing to put the fire out so they are surely dead.
    I was first in on a small Mooney crash in my area before I went ARFF back in 07. We had a survivor in the plane for over an hour with fuel leaking and did not know it do the the entangled mess the crash caused. We were in the process of treating 2 women who were critical (1 later died) and had a crew of 4 monitoring the plane to keep the pilot/victim's body intact for the Coroner and Medical Examiners Offices to arrive (per KY Law).
    People want to help, but just because one has the training, doesn't mean they have the resources, just as someone who has all the resources may not have the training, if you remove 1, you put yourself and the survivors at risk.
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    Default All the time

    Simply put, military a/c go down almost daily some where in the world. Only those that impact in the US off a military installation make the news. This is something Military/DoD firefighters train and deal with every day. It is also something that they are trained to discus among themselves and rarely get credit for when they return and look for civilian outside employment. If a situation comes about for you, your best bet is to carefully do what you need to do to save a life if needed. If you believe you can wait, do just that and let the guys that truly know what to do in this type of incident and let them take care of business. Do not hold back because of the situation and do what you can "carefully" to save a life.

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    Auxman
    I don't know, perhaps all airplane manufacturers are required to provide aircraft emergency recovery instructions. I've seen a bunch of them though, and I believe they should be available from manufacturers or friendly airport emergency services. The ones for B747 are 42 and 48 pages long, the one for a Cessna 172 is 3 pages long but neatly goes trough the basics. I have a few and could send you an example if you want, send me a PM if you wish.

    (We are not airport rescue, but if a plane goes down in our area, we're supposed to be the pro's that DFurtman mentioned, we might consult aviation agency officials as needed, but they'll be on site in a few hours at the fastest)
    And for the sake of world peace, please notice that I am located in FINLAND, we do things our way.

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    Thumbs up One addition recommendation:

    NMFire is correct on his feedback. I would offer one modification to his shut down...The general action steps are "Throttles, Bottles, and then Battery"

    Here you go:
    If you can safely gain entry to the aircraft:[*] Shut off the fuel if you can locate the fuel shut off device (fuel devices can be a simple lever you rotate, others can be a electrical switch, and others can be a push in lever - depending on the general aviation aircraft). Note: If you turn off the mastery battery switch first and then the fuel (you "could" leave the fuel valve in the "open" position instead of "closing" it...i.e. by turning off the fuel then master battery you may stop the fuel from flowing... [*] Pull the red lever next to the throttle all the way back (if there is one)[*] Turn the ignition key to off[*] Shut off the battery master switch on the instrument panel[*] Unless you can relay your exact location to S&R, look for a switch on the left side labeled "ELT" and switch it to ON.[*] Do not touch the landing gear or flaps levers. This could critically destabilize the plane!

    If Turbo prop --> turn off the magneto (normally located on the dash - prevents engine from restarting)...

    You can Google USAF T.O. OO 105E-9 Aircraft Rescue Firefighting --> HQ AFCESA Fire and Emergency Services PUBLIC WEB PAGE:
    http://www.afcesa.af.mil/CEX/cexf/index.asp
    Safety Supplements: http://www.afcesa.af.mil/CEX/cexf/_firemgt.asp

    Look for the similar type aircraft and this may be helpful in your training.

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    Some modifications to your additions...

    You should NEVER leave the fuel levers and valves open and assume killing the electrical power will stop the flow. Most are gravity fed and the electric pumps are only for emergencies, boosting pressure. Always shut off as many fuel valves as you can. If it is labeled fuel anything, shut it off.

    Magnetos are only found on conventional piston engines, not turbo props. This is what I referred to as the "ignition switch" since that's what people will recognize it as.

    On turboprop or jet turbine engines, most of the engine management controls are electrical or electronic. Shutting of the masters will disable all of that, including the automatic re-lite.

    Something new I forgot... NEVER NEVER NEVER try to turn the prop by hand on a plane with piston engines. If the ignition isn't off, or the ground wires are broken off the magnetos (very likely), the spark plugs will fire and the engine will restart!
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Over 99 percent of CAP ELT missions end up either being a false activation, or they end up being long past the time for leaking fuel issues.

    CAP teaches to protect the scene, and wait for EMS.

    With that said, if you want to be better prepared, you may want to contact your local FD, and see if they can include you in their next aircraft rescue class, or direct you to a department that will be holding one.

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    Yea its a major problem. Thats why the air force is slowly phasing it out and moving to the addressable 403Mhz beacons with GPS. They still have the conventional whooping homing beacon for radio direction finding. But they also transmit your identification and GPS coordinates to the SAR SAT system. Within minutes of activation, your exact location and identifying information pops up. There is contact information to use first so when it says you crashed at the west ramp near your hanger, they can just call you and tell you that you bumped into the button. But if it starts pinging away in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas and you aren't answering your phone, there will be helicopters over head in no time.

    Going along with what I said earlier, you should still look for and manually activate the switch just in case the inertial activation didn't work. So if SAR didn't have you location before, they'll have it now.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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