Extreme environments often require extra preflight planning. Take Alaska, whose rugged, remote landscape is famously unforgiving. Pilots flying in the last frontier are required to carry an on-board survival kit—and for good reason. The vast majority of Alaska is remote and no matter where you had to set the airplane down, you are likely to be on your own for a while before help can arrive.
A summer of uninterrupted sunlight is magical, but white nights come with dark days—and highly changeable weather. Your perfect emergency landing will be all for nothing if you are unprepared for the aftermath and die of exposure. Even for a prepared pilot, a forced landing in Alaska is less than ideal. The reasons why pilots in Alaska are required to carry a survival kit are clear—but even if you don’t fly in Alaska, there are plenty of reasons to carry your own, too.
One day, you might have to make a precautionary or emergency landing, and even in the best of situations, a search and rescue mission can take time. In 2008, a Maryland State Police MedEvac helicopter crashed just over 3 miles from Andrews Air Force Base. Despite being in a populated area, it still took rescuers two hours to find the wreckage. An off-airport landing is unlikely, but wouldn’t you rather build your own survival kit and be prepared for the “just in case” scenario?
Now let’s go to another extreme. Hawaii: a tropical paradise where you are far less likely to encounter any bears in the event of an unexpected landing. Pilots in Hawaii know well the rules of flotation devices, and probably have thought through what they would do if forced to land in the water. But have you thought about it? Even if you don’t intend to ever fly over the open ocean, you might be presented with a land vs water scenario in an emergency. What if you were flying over a lake, with swimmers in the shallows, children and puppies playing on the beach, and tall trees lining the shore? What would you do? If you’ve already come to terms with the idea that you might one day have to land in the water, it will make that unlikely scenario an easier pill to swallow should it ever come up.
We may never fly in the shadow of Denali or along the Napali Coast, but considering the tools of pilots who do, and the ways that they prepare for the unlikely, will make us all more prepared in our daily flying.