While Robert Bruner survived the Camp Fire with his life and his...
In This Article
This article is meant to be a quick overview and is not a detailed guide on aviation, nor should it be construed as an endorsement to operate an aircraft without proper training and licenses. To learn more, consult with a reputable training school or instructor.
The TV reporter said all you needed to know in one sentence: “The governor is declaring a state of emergency and evacuation plans will be announced in the next five minutes. ” Strong winds from the Northwest are driving the flames toward a derailed train of tanker cars filled with volatile chlorine. A solid wall of flames stretches across the television screen and roiling clouds of thick brown smoke climb thousands of feet into the sky. Fire departments from all over the state have been unable to slow the fire’s path toward the overturned tankers.
Your wife and two young children enter the room and stand next to you. Their survival will depend on your skills and decision-making over the next hour. You know what to do. You need to bug out now, and it’s got to be by plane.
Without being told, each member of the family grabs their go-bags, and 10 minutes later you’re entering the code that allows you into Sky Ranch Airport and to your bug-out aircraft: a 22-year-old Cessna 172. The preflight complete, you reach for the ignition key. Your wife puts her hand over yours and squeezes gently as the engine coughs to life, settling into the familiar rhythm. After a few heart-pounding minutes, you’re in the air and cruising through 2,100 feet. You share a relieved look with your wife as you gently bank northeast toward your first destination, the mountain top airport 150 nautical miles north.
The preceding story, although fiction, has its basis in the stark reality of compromised land and water egress. Take this story’s hypothetical opener: a chlorine tanker accident.
Chlorine is used in industrial and commercial products and is therefore commonplace. Depending on the concentration and the exposure time, this chemical can cause severe health problems and even death. At room temperature, chlorine is a gas that’s heavier than air, which means it’ll linger in low-lying areas unless the wind picks up. The safest means of escaping its potentially fatal and widespread mist could very well be via an aircraft.
At this point, some of you might be asking, “What if I don’t know how to fly?” or “Having a bug-out plane is stupid because it isn’t realistic. ” Remember: If disaster has already struck, it’s too late to develop a bug-out plane strategy. Having an aircraft is an option that may take years to fully develop. But once you have it, it could mean the difference between saving your family and being stuck on the highway with thousands of other panicked drivers wishing you could grow a pair of wings. As they always say, “You can never have too many options when the SHTF. ”
If you’re a regular reader, you know that OFFGRID delves into all manner of bug-out vehicles, from kayaks and snowmobiles to off-road rigs and mountain bikes. So, in this edition we shine the spotlight at aircraft as a survival option. Here’s a look at the benefits and disadvantages of being a prepper pilot.
Let’s say you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you’re game. Where do you start? Obtain a valid pilot’s license (private, sport, or recreational) if you don’t already have one. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, you can begin training at any age. However, you must be at least 16 to obtain a sport pilot certificate and 17 for a recreational pilot or private pilot certificate.
Here’s a look at the main types of pilot’s licenses and what it takes to obtain them.
2. Recreational (Airplane and Rotorcraft)
3. Sport (Airplane, Gyro, Weight-Shift-Control, Airships)
Once you’ve acquired your pilot’s license, it’s time to get an airplane that has the basic characteristics needed for a bug-out vehicle. Avoid a rental or club aircraft. Instead, consider a seaplane. It’s quite possibly the most versatile bug-out aircraft available to the general public. The seaplane allows you access to runways, grass and dirt landing strips, lakes, ocean, and all manner of waterways.
Due to the inherent ruggedness and reliability of the Husky, Skyhawk, Caravan, and Beaver, all four models are ideal for bugging out to and from land, snow, or water. They also have several rather significant benefits not found in the newer aircraft: long production runs and availability of parts. These planes can be found used in greater quantities and at a lower cost. Here’s a closer look at each one. See if one of them meets your needs.
De Havilland Beaver
This single-engine, high-wing Canadian bush plane has been used by military all over the world, from the U. S. Army to the Ghana Air Force.
|Capacity:||One pilot, six passengers|
|Cargo:||2, 100 pounds of useful load|
|Length:||30 feet, 3 inches|
|Empty Weight:||3, 000 pounds|
|Gross Weight:||5, 100 pounds|
|Power Plant:||450 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp Jr. radial engine|
|Maximum Speed:||158 mph|
|Cruise Speed:||143 mph|
|Service Ceiling:||18, 000 feet|
|Rate of Climb:||1,020 feet per minute|
In production since 1987, this rugged and dependable two-seater is one of the best-selling light aircraft designs of the past two decades. This high-wing utility plane is used
for all sorts of functions, from pipeline inspection and glider towing to border patrol and anti-poaching missions.
|Capacity:||1 pilot, 1 passenger|
|Cargo:||925 pounds of useful load|
|Length:||30 feet, 6 inches|
|Empty Weight:||, 275 pounds|
|Gross Weight:||2, 250 pounds|
|Power Plant:||180 hp Lycoming O-360|
|Maximum Speed:||145 mph|
|Cruise Speed:||140 mph|
|Service Ceiling:||20, 000 feet|
|Rate of Climb:||1, 500 feet per minute|
Cessna Caravan Amphibian
This rugged and proven aircraft can operate from terra firma or water— you can land on and take off from almost anywhere. The passenger capacity and ability to transport extensive supplies put this bug-out aircraft at the top of the list. Manufactured since 1998, it’s the largest seaplane with a single engine.
|Capacity:||Eight, 10, or 14|
|Cargo:||3, 230 pounds|
|Length:||38 feet, 1 inches|
|Wingspan:||52 feet, 1 inches|
|Height:||17 feet, 7 inches|
|Empty Weight:||5, 555 pounds|
|Gross Weight:||8, 750 pounds|
|Power Plant:||675 hp Pratt & Whitney Model PT6A-114 A|
|Maximum Speed:||175 kias|
|Cruise Speed:||159 knots|
|Range:||820 nautical miles|
|Service Ceiling:||20, 000 feet|
|Rate of Climb:||939 feet per minute|
Cessna 172 Skyhawk
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a four-seat, single-engine, high-wing aircraft that first flew in 1955 and has been in production since 1956. More 172 s have been manufactured than any other airplane in history. The availability of used aircraft in good condition is extensive.
|Capacity:||Two to three passengers(including the pilot)|
|Cargo:||446 pounds of useful load|
|Empty Weight:||1, 275 pounds|
|Gross Weight:||2, 300 pounds|
|Power Plant:||Lycoming O-360|
|Maximum Speed:||188 mph|
|Cruise Speed:||143 mph|
|Service Ceiling:||20, 000 feet|
|Rate of Climb:||1, 500 feet per minute|
Much like any other survival skill, flying a bug-out plane proficiently takes repetition. So once you have your license and your plane, practice, practice, and practice. And when you think that you have practiced enough, practice some more. Obviously, you can’t learn how to fly from reading a magazine article. So we’
ll give you a brief overview of the basics.
Takeoff and Climbing
Complete your pre-take off checklist. Typically use one degree of flap and the elevator trim is adjusted to neutral. Now slowly advance the throttle, using the rudder pedals to steer the aircraft to the active runway and point the nose into the wind. Wait for the tower to say, “Skyhawk 6 Charlie Lima, clear for takeoff. ” The throttle is opened fully to start the takeoff roll. During this takeoff roll, the control wheel, or stick, is usually held in the neutral position, and the rudder pedals are used to keep the airplane on the runway’s centerline.
As takeoff airspeed is approached, gently apply backpressure on the control wheel or stick and the plane’s nose will begin to lift off the runway. Use the rudder pedals to keep the nose point straight.
When the airplane is clear of the runway, gently relax the control slightly, letting the nose drop slightly as you gain speed. As your airspeed increases, remember the best rate of climb
for your aircraft(found in the aircraft operating manual).
First, find the airport— sometimes that’s more difficult than it sounds. Check the wind direction at the airport by asking the tower controller the wind direction or look at the windsock on the airfield. At a controlled airport you must comply with the directions of the tower, and a controller will give you the runway information and tell you when to land.
At an uncontrolled airport, there is no tower. You announce your intentions, look for other planes, and when clear, land. Whether you are told which runway to land on or you make the choice, align yourself into the wind and control your airspeed so that the needle in the airspeed indicator is in the white arc. This is a time to be careful and maintain the appropriate airspeed since the bottom of the white arc usually represents the planes stalling speed.
Run a “before landing” checklist, found in the aircraft manufacturer’s operating handbook, prior to the final leg of your pattern. Maintain your glide slope angle by using the VASI (Visual Approach Slope Indicator) system installed along the runway. If you see a set of red lights over a set of white lights on the VASI system, you are on the proper glide slope. If the runway you are landing on doesn’t have approach lights, you should be 300 feet above the ground 1 mile from the end of the runway and as you cross the runway threshold, smoothly bring the power to idle and smoothly pull back on the controls and flare(slightly nose up) and allow the plane to settle to the runway.
Once you’ve become proficient at the fundamentals, take it a step further and begin practicing for a potential bug out. Try these four exercises:
Checklist It: Keep a checklist in the office, house, and car. Discovering that you forgot an essential item after you’re already strapped into the plane is of little use.
Preplan It: Find the best and fastest route to the airport from your home, work, and any other location were you go at least three times per week on a regular basis.
Drill It: Do a complete run-through at least once every three months with whomever is in your family or survival group.
Old-School It: Once in there air, pick an objective location and see
if you can get there without a GPS and other advanced navigational aids. Hint: At times it may be as simple as following the highway and making the appropriate turn off— it’s just that you’
re 4, 000 feet above the ground.
Whatever the cause, any disaster of significance will adversely affect the power and communications grids. That means your entire wiz bang— state-of-the-art communications and navigational devices will be useless, at least
for a time. The world of convenience will be transported back to the 19 th century.
Right now you are probably saying, “Yeah, but my glass panel and GPS have backup batteries. Wrong, all the backup batteries in the world will not be of any help if society’s infrastructure begins to collapse. Tuning to your favorite radio station will be a waste of time if the station can’t broadcast a signal. An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) burst will fry everything electrical and whatever survives will be worthless because satellites will be non-functional, ground-based NDBs (non-directional beacons), VORs (VHF omnidirectional range beacons), and TACAN (Tactical Air Navigation Beacons) will cease to function.
Within a matter of seconds you will be transported back to the days of the biplanes, when traveling from point A to point B involved following geographical landmarks such as roads, bridges, mountains, and lakes. Times when one’s most important assets were common sense and self-reliance.
How about while you’re flying? Are there specific altitudes you need to fly? Visual Flight Rules (VFR) will most likely be used if a crisis hits. The designated altitudes to fly at are 7,500 feet and 8,500 feet since the VFR state that traffic flying easterly should be at odd altitudes plus 500 feet (e. g. 7,500 feet). Westerly traffic utilizing VFR should be at even attitudes plus 500 feet (e. g. 8,500 feet).
Not every catastrophic event will be a chlorine tanker explosion fueled by a wildfire. And not every bug-out vehicle will(or should be) an aircraft. But if you’re already a pilot, or have the means to become one, consider a plane as another card in your survival deck.
The bug-out bag(BOB) may be as essential to your survival as the fuel in the aircraft’s tanks. The first thing to remember is that although you are flying, nothing has to be TSA compliant. Each passenger should have his or her own BOB. There should be one bag for the aircraft that remains in the plane.
The BOB is a very important yet personalized necessity. Unlike on a motor vehicle or a boat, weight is of paramount consideration in an airplane. Weigh each bag and calculate into the total passenger and carry-on weight. This is extremely important as it relates to the plane’s performance. You should inspect everyone’s bags on a monthly basis using a checklist. Your family’s BOBs should be stored in the same place and stored together. Some have used a hall closet or cabinet in the garage. Here’s a closer explanation of what your bug-out gear should be.
On Your Person
Whether you’re flying commercial or private, make sure you’re wearing cotton or wool(no nylon) and leather sole shoes or hiking boots. Pack a light jacket, a hat, and medication. Ask your doctor if you can get a prescription for a wide-spectrum antibiotic and an anti-diarrhea medication.
For sake of clarity, the pilot’s bag will be called the “Captain’s BOB ” and it’s the responsibility of the pilot to verify that each passenger has their BOB. The Captain’s BOB should contain:
The list here is a sample. Build your own go-bag based on your location, the age and health of passengers, and the potential weather.
Worst Bug – Out Aircraft
Given the parameters of a bug – out aircraft, there are certain aircraft that would not be appropriate for this type of mission.They ‘re too small, too slow, have little to no cargo capacity, or have limited pilot and passenger protection, among other concerns.
Dr. Neal H.Olshan is a consulting psychologist, a pilot, a writer, and a fine art photographer, as well as the chief combat psychologist for LMS Defense.He is the developer of the Evolution of Mindset Training Program. Olshan is the author of six non-fiction books and wrote the novel The Panama Escape with his wife, Mary.