US Coast Guard Air Station Crew Conducts Egress Training

Taking their training underwater so the Coast Guard can protect in life or death situations.

Every year the U.S. Coast Guard goes through a swim test and egress training.

Thursday, pilots from Air Station Traverse City had to prove they could save themselves in case of an emergency.

9&10’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist Jeremy Erickson have more details on their self-rescue water training.

“Keep calm, keep calm.”

Day or night, 365 days a year, the crew at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City is always ready to respond.

“It’s a lot of training to go out and conduct the missions that we do safely,” says Brad Fitzpatrick, chief aviation survival technician. “Obviously our safety has to be paramount in order for us to be able to rescue others and maintain their safety.”

Thursday’s training put these helicopter pilots to the test.

They had to go through two minutes of treading water and a 75-yard swim.

Most of us are used to only being in the water in a bathing suit, but for the Coast Guard, add these steel-toed boots, a flight suit and vest, you’re looking at another 25 to 30 pounds.

“It’s heavier. You got to hold deep breathes of air to help maintain your buoyancy, says Micah Svela, aviation maintenance technician second class. “If you let all your air out, your body’s going to want to sink a little bit faster.”

After they pass the swim test it’s on to the next task – having to get themselves out of a helicopter if it flipped in the water.

“It’s extremely important. If the helicopter crashes you have to know how to get out successfully. Otherwise you’re stuck in the helicopter and if it sinks you’re going down with it,” says Svela.

“When they’re underneath the water like that they need that other perspective,” Fitzpatrick says.

“We do four rides,” Svela explains. “They flip you upside down, you got to use your bottle to breathe underwater, get your harness off, your cords disconnected, and you’ve got to successfully get out of the chair. Once you get the hang of it and you enjoy it and you got it down, it’s fun.”