Pilots of the Peruvian Navy Aviation Force conducted training in submerged cabin escape in mid-April. The exercise, organized by the Argentine Navy, took place at the Argentine Navy's 2nd Aeronaval Force Training Center (CIFA, in Spanish), located at Comandante Espora Aeronaval Base, in Buenos Aires.
The five-day theoretical and hands-on training focused on emergency scenarios for flights over water, as well as pool exercises to test what had been learned. The goal of the exchange was to teach new knowledge and strengthen the Peruvian officers’ skills to respond to extreme water situations on board a helicopter.
“The Peruvian Navy’s aeronaval pilots conducted training to escape a submerged cabin,” Argentine Navy Lieutenant Commander Ramiro Reyero, head of CIFA, told Diálogo. “This exercise helps increase survival chances for an air crew that had to make an emergency landing and needs to abandon its aircraft while it sinks.”
Training was divided into three stages: one theoretical and two hands-on stages. During the first, CIFA instructors presented the history of the center, the work methodology, and the procedures and aspects to consider during an air emergency.
The second stage consisted of exercises conducted in a pool, including swimming and controlled immersions of a cabin simulator. During that stage, officers practiced several techniques to escape the submerged cabin, taking into account underwater spatial disorientation.
“When the two previous stages came to an end, the submerged cabin instructor explained and demonstrated water adaptation exercises to enable them to adjust to a safe position and to be able to plan evacuation and escape from there. These are carried out by the students later,” said Lt. Cdr. Reyero.
“We learned theoretical and practical concepts related to escaping helicopters with inverted cabins, the use of self-contained breathing devices to be able to spend longer periods of time under water, how to rescue people in dangerous situations, and the necessary survival steps in a potentially risky situation,” said Peruvian Navy Lieutenant Commander Jorge Santa María Zagastizabal, second in command at Callao Aeronaval Base.
Lt. Cdr. Reyero said the Argentine Navy provided personnel from its Search and Rescue Parachuting Group, as well as rescue swimmers from the Naval Aviation Command — all subject matter experts — for the training.
For his part, Lt. Cdr. Zagastizabal said the training his Argentine counterparts received was very complete. “All CIFA personnel's experience was offered to us,” the officer said. “This is something very valuable, as it enables us to complete our training not only individually, but also as a team.”
Bonds of friendship
The exchange not only served to share techniques that can save lives, but also to strengthen bonds of friendship between aeronaval pilots in the region and to standardize the procedures used when, for instance, multinational operations for disaster response are needed.
“This kind of exercise enables us to pass down all the experience we’ve acquired throughout the years, so as to contribute to training Peruvian Naval Aviation personnel, as we reaffirm the fraternal bonds that unite us,” Lt. Cdr. Reyero said.
“Being able to come here [to CIFA] was a very interesting experience. The relationship created with the Argentine Navy personnel has been very professional and educational,” Lt. Cdr. Zagastizabal said. “They treated us very well, and we’ve learned a lot from this experience.”