18 July 2023
What survival kit should you take when making a potentially perilous flight, say, across the north Atlantic via Greenland to the USA?
James Hortop, businessman, pilot and owner of Farway Common airfield, has just made that very ferry flight in his own Navion Rangemaster H and recently posted about the safety equipment he’s carrying.
James wrote, “It’s just starting to sink in quite what a big deal flying a small plane across the pond is. The type and selection of safety equipment is so very important – especially as on this route I needed everything to survive maritime, polar and wild Canada.
“Perhaps one of the most important things is the survival suit. Heather from Viking Life-Saving Equipment kindly gave me a suit for the journey and I cannot thank her enough nor praise the suit. I was in that thing for hours and its breathable fabric stopped me descending into a sweaty mess! In the event of ditching the suit would help prevent cold water shock initially and hypothermia once in the raft.
“I decided not to use my aviation life raft. I tried the same model out in the pool at the RNLI once… It was flimsy and while OK for the English Channel the prospect of overnighting in it with the icebergs didn’t appeal. It also has a single skin floor – not good to be sat on when sea temperature is -1 degrees.
“So I took with me an 8 person marine raft – with three tubes, a canopy, stabilisation pockets and an insulated floor.
“I have no fewer than three EPIRBs (one my suit, one in the grab bag and one in the plane), tons of flares, 3 British army ration packs, hexyblocks and canteen, fishing kit, expedition first aid kit, lightweight shelter, snow goggles, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, an absolutely enormous knife for killing bears and even a hand operated desalinator.
“I also ensured I had a knife in the suit pocket for cutting the painter for the life raft (which is tied to the plane).
“Thrown in for good luck was a fuel pump (had I decided last minute to go the northern route, some places have fuel in barrels only, my arctic Canada Goose Jacket and a sleeping bag.
“From his around the world flight in the Silver Spitfire, my friend Matt Jones of Spitfires.com let me borrow an excellent grab bag with self inflating buoy prepared for him by the Navy which is stuffed full of everything else needed.
“Thrown in as well is an Iridium satphone (useful also when all the phones in Narsarsuaq were down and my absolutely terrible cell phone provider puts a cap on your spending of £30 a day – and won’t remove it despite being offered any amount of money!
“Lastly, Matt also gave me a mini air breathing system. In the event of ditching it gives you three minutes of breathing underwater to help safely exit the plane.
“While some ferry pilots fly with a lot less, there is no way I would attempt such a flight without this gear! However, was nice to drop the gear off for shipping home [on arrival in Canada] and shedding 60kg for quicker cruising speed!”
James is also raising money for Cancer Research UK during the flight and you can contribute here.