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Helicopter crash training
By BBC Tees' Emma Borthwick
There are more people working offshore from the North East than any where else in England, 2,000 from Teesside alone. So BBC Tees' Emma Borthwick took part in the training offshore workers do.
Helicopter Underwater Escape Training – I’m not scared! I can swim! Well that’s what I thought until the night before…
I left the BBC building at around 9:30 in the morning. Swimming costume, towel and toiletries in hand ready for a dunking!
The first two hours of the course were spent in the classroom learning about survival suits, breathing equipment and what can and can’t be taken on a helicopter. These two hours were fairly relaxed but I couldn’t shake that feeling of nervousness.
All through the morning classes I kept holding my breath and counting in my head – just to make sure I could still hold my breath, and to try and work out how long I’d last underwater if I couldn’t find my escape route.
Once we’d finished in the classroom and had lunch it was time to go… Poolside!
Wearing a navy blue boiler suit underneath, and bright yellow survival suit, with that underneath a life jacket, I was ready to go underwater!
We had a couple of dry runs, one inside the helicopter simulator and one with our breathing equipment… then it was time to get wet.
Backwards down the pool steps, the diver on hand to help, head under and breathe 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20… the longest 20 seconds ever.
It feels so unnatural to put your head under water and then carry on breathing. What’s worse, the water pressure pushing against the air bag makes breathing very difficult, but it really is just a case of getting used to it.
We were given our seats in the helicopter simulator, pulled up into the air and then dropped into the water. The instructor shouts “BRACE BRACE BRACE” which means get into crash position, “LOCATE” which means find your escape route and put your hand on your seatbelt buckle… underwater… count to seven (that’s how long it takes for the blades to stop moving) then unbuckle yourself pop your window out and escape.
The water rushes against your face as the machinery spins the simulator 180 degrees. Nerves make breathing more difficult and after it you've been spun there is a feeling of disorientation.
But, once I had escaped a few times I soon built up some confidence with my equipment and in my own escape ability. I have to say it does become quite fun!
I passed! Bring it on Bond!
last updated: 20/02/2009 at 11:18