Last week the ABC reported on the survival of a man who had walked for 20 kilometres to get help. On first glance, it would appear pilot Peter Lacy had run out of luck.
- The engine of his aircraft started spewing smoke into the cabin
- There was no clear country to make a forced landing
- A wing clipped a tree on the way down, causing the aircraft to skid onto its side
- Aviation fuel started pouring on the pilot who evacuated quickly fearing fire
- The aircraft’s 406 distress beacon was damaged in the landing, and despite hours of desperate attempts to repair it, it was unable to be fixed.
On closer examination, a bit of luck was on Mr Lacy’s side. He was mostly uninjured in the accident, and with a clear head, he made some good decisions.
Mr Lacy’s first priority was to arrange his rescue; however, his 406 distress beacon was destroyed beyond repair in the accident. Mr Lacy stated
“I had to walk because nobody knew where I was, so I walked for 25 kilometres into where I knew some hills were. Then I was able to ring for help from there.”
The normal advice is to stay with the downed aircraft (or broken down vehicle) until you are rescued. If Mr Lacy had lodged a flight note, the alarm would have been raised when he failed to arrive at his destination. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority would have then promptly coordinated the search for the missing aircraft.
As it was, Mr Lacy had to take matters into his own hands. Thankfully he had good knowledge of the landscape and was confident in the bush. Despite the threat of circling dingoes, Mr Lacy was able to walk to higher ground where his mobile phone gained signal. Mr Lacy established contact with WA Police, who initiated search action. He was eventually rescued almost 24 hours after the forced landing.
Perhaps next time Mr Lacy will lodge a flight note. This will mean that even if he is unable to activate his beacon, proper and effective search action will commence within minutes of his nominated arrival time, if he fails to arrive. It is an important principle anyone who travels in remote areas should consider.
What is your remote communication plan? What is your redundancy if your 406 beacon fails to operate? If you are planning on touring in remote areas, you should join the many other travellers who have read: Save Our Selves – a guide for getting help in remote areas.