Learning to escape a submerged aircraft

A company in Connecticut trains people to escape from emergencies underwater—such as a submerged vehicle. The interactive lesson was created in Canada in the 1980s. Since then, it grew. Survival Systems USA is based in Groton.

The instructors start with teaching how to brace for impact. After four hours in the classroom, students put the lessons to the test in a simulator that is submerged in a pool.

Instructor Richard Stebbins said the immersion lesson is all about making students comfortable with being uncomfortable so they can make it out successfully.

Once you've braced for impact, find your exit by using a body part as your point of reference. This is the same strategy to use if your vehicle hit the water. Grab the handle, open door, have a firm grasp, unbuckle and get out.

Instructor Daniel McInnis said using a part of your body as reference makes finding the exit easier so you don't waste time searching.

The students we saw in action are with a company that uses helicopters often. The simulation got more involved and more intense. Many coming up coughing and with looks of relief only to be thrown another scenario.

Stebbins said the students can get put through scenarios with severe weather, such as simulated rain, wind, thunder, and lightning.

The interest in these classes has grown since Survival Systems USA opened in 1999. A few students who went through the course have since been in accidents and were able to make it out alive.