Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET)

Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET)


When a helicopter crashes into water, it will likely roll over and water, fuel, oil, and debris will begin to rush in. Sinking can occur at any time, often to depths incompatible with survival. Disorientation, confusion, panic, loss of vision, loss of balance, loss of physical reference, false perception or orientation, and in some parts of the world, the effects of extreme cold, are all factors that the occupants may encounter.

Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), also sometimes called Helicopter Underwater Egress Training, serves to ensure a successful egress from a submerged helicopter and for trainees to develop continued survival skills after a successful egress when they find themselves in a potentially hostile marine environment.

HUET training (Source: LifeFlight Training Academy, Aug 23)

HUET training (Source: LifeFlight Training Academy, Aug 23)

Regulatory requirements

According to AMC1 ORO.FC.230 of EASA AIR OPS regulations dealing with recurrent training and checking for commercial air transport (CAT) operators,

Where life-rafts are fitted for helicopter extended overwater operations (such as sea pilot transfer, offshore operations, regular, or scheduled, coast-to-coast overwater operations), a comprehensive wet drill to cover all ditching procedures should be practised by aircraft crew (EASA AIR OPS - AMC1 ORO.FC.230). This wet drill should include, as appropriate, practice of the actual donning and inflation of a lifejacket, together with a demonstration or audio-visual presentation of the inflation of life-rafts. Crews should board the same (or similar) life-rafts from the water whilst wearing a lifejacket.

Training should include the use of all survival equipment carried on board life-rafts and any additional survival equipment carried separately on board the aircraft. Consideration should be given to the provision of further specialist training such as HUET. Where operations are predominately conducted offshore, operators should conduct 3-yearly HUET at an appropriate facility. Wet practice drills should always be given in initial training unless the crew member concerned has received similar training provided by another operator (EASA AIR OPS - AMC1 ORO.FC.230).

Best practice

There are some important principles followed by HUET training centres for the development and delivery of training, including effective brace positioning to avoid/minimize injury during a survivable impact, as well as subsequent actions after impact to locate the nearest exit point with the closest hand and while using the other hand to locate the seat buckle. Other important principles include the timely ejection of jettisonable exits and the use of emergency breathing systems (EBS), which enable breathing underwater in a submerged cabin and thus improve chances of egress in a real event.

Other factors that need to be considered in HUET are the problems of disorientation, the potential for being hampered by equipment, cold, injury, being trapped, being blocked by other passengers, and reduced breath-holding ability, particularly in cold water.

It is also important to teach about personal equipment, and specifically how the immersion or survival suit should be worn, donning and doffing procedures, and the importance of good care. Best practice requires that training providers have access to helicopter underwater training modules that replicate, as close as possible, the operation of the aircraft’s doors, windows, hatches, and exit systems.

HUET is delivered by industry experts who instruct on all elements of the training. After the practical demonstration by the instructor of how to abandon the helicopter, first in a vertical position on the surface and then in the inverted position, the students will each have to demonstrate that they are able to successfully conduct the procedure without assistance.

To ensure a thorough understanding of the equipment and procedures before attempting an inverted abandonment, it is important that each student completes a minimum of two surface abandonments. To qualify, students would need to successfully complete a minimum of four unassisted escapes, sequentially, from the designated position.

Recognised training providers continually work to improve HUET results by providing training with simulators that replicate, as closely as possible, the helicopters used by customers. Pilots, crew and those who frequently fly over water must possess a set of “instinctive escape” skills so that, if ever required, they can locate and use egress systems and ultimately survive an aircraft submersion.

HUET training (Source: LifeFlight Training Academy, Aug 23)

HUET training (Source: LifeFlight Training Academy, Aug 23)

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