Survival Gear In A Piper Cub

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Pablo Edronkin

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Survival Gear and Equipment

The placement of any kind of survival gear in a plane with tandem seats should be considered with more care than in those that have side-by-side seats.

I consider myself very fortunate as a pilot because I fly a Piper Cub Special, a PA-11 that in these months has reached sixty years of ripe old age. The plane in question has had in the past two serious accidents - not with me inside, luckily - and a number of emergencies. I also fly fairly regularly PA-18s, L-21s and other aircraft of the same family; in my opinion they are all super planes but share a common thing that any pilot should consider carefully.

The thing is that all standard Piper Cubs derive from the J-2 and J-3, the oldest versions that were designed to be flown solo from the backseat because of weight distribution issues. At the time, the fuel tank was located inside the fuselage, right behind the engine, and that required a different distribution than in more modern versions. Indeed, after Piper decided to move the fuel tank(s) to the wings, pilots were able to fly alone from either seat, and while there are purists that still fly the more modern versions like the original Grasshopper, most - myself included - prefer to seat at the front for a variety of reasons. In my case it is because I think that you enjoy better visibility and that turns your flight into a safer experience.

However, Piper made no modifications regarding the aft baggage compartment that in the case of the first versions was readily accessible to the pilot just by stretching a little. That baggage compartment is located right behind the backseat, and reaching it from the front without losing control of the aircraft is quite difficult.

The thing is that people tend to place tools, the first aid kit and all survival gear inside that compartment, and that is wrong, plain and simple, because they might not be able to reach it when needed the most. Plus, things located in that little compartment might not survive a crash because fabric-covered planes like the Cubs tend to burn very rapidly on impact. So, survivors usually leave those planes quickly and just with what they have on, meaning their clothes and little else.

Any sort of first aid, survival or emergency equipment should be readily available to the pilot in command, who is normally the most experienced occupant. Thus, placing such important gear on the back is not really a safe option in Cub-like airplanes, at least in my opinion.

The best way would be to carry such equipment in a vest or inside the grand pockets of your flight jacket, and if you can do so redundantly - i.e. both occupants carrying their own survival gear - that would be much better. This doesn't require much of an investment and would turn your flights and even your emergencies into much safer and survivable situations.

Lastly, include a religious book among your survival stuff; choose the Bible, the Qoran or any other according to your preferences and beliefs. Never underestimate what faith could do for you after an aircraft accident.

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