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Exit signs: Student pilots learn how to egress

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --  Staff Sgt. Jose Rivera, Life Support NCO in charge, helps Capt. Charles Kistler understand F-15 egress procedures. Sergeant Rivera is with the 325th Operations Support Squadron, and Captain Kistler is with the 2nd Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Staff Sgt. Jose Rivera, Life Support NCO in charge, helps Capt. Charles Kistler understand F-15 egress procedures. Sergeant Rivera is with the 325th Operations Support Squadron, and Captain Kistler is with the 2nd Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chrissy Cuttita)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- (Editor's note: This is the third of a five-part series covering the training B-course students go through to get in the air.)

When a pilot enters an aircraft, he also needs to know how to exit, especially if the exit happens under extreme conditions and is completely unplanned.

Making all scenarios and life-saving techniques second-nature for pilots in such instances is the number one priority of the 325th Operations Support Squadron's life support shop.

"There are two different ways to egress," said Senior Master Sgt. Delbert Anderson, 325th OSS. "You can eject while you are flying by pulling the handles, or you can bail out when something happens on the ground, such as an engine fire."

Both of these techniques are important to master to ensure the pilot's exit is a safe one.

"The reason we do this training is to make the pilot's reaction second nature so they instinctively know what to do," Sergeant Anderson said.

During this training, the pilot gets a briefing taking him through different types of scenarios and ways to safely react to those scenarios. He also gets a chance to sit in the egress trainer who has the same ejection equipment as an F-15 Eagle.

"It's our first time ever flying the Eagle, so we need to understand the system associated with getting out of the aircraft safely - both in the air and on the ground," said Capt. Charles Kistler, 2nd Fighter Squadron B-course student.

After egress training, the pilot reacts to what would be next in sequence should he eject from the aircraft - the hanging harness, which is built and spring-loaded to simulate the effects of a parachute.

As the pilot dangles from the simulator, he is given different scenes and terrain he may land in, such as water, trees, telephone lines or land. He also watches a virtual reality system where he learns to guide himself through the situation.

After the pilot makes it through parachute training, he then goes into another room to guide him through what to do once he safely lands into the terrain. He is shown the gear provided in his survival kit, and all the survival equipment, and is taught how to use it.

"Another thing we go over with the B-course students is the natural hazards they may encounter in the environment. For example, if they are dealing with marine life, such as sharks, we brief them not to flail, or for barracuda, not to wear shiny objects and how to protect themselves from jellyfish," Sergeant Anderson said.

During egress training, students are also briefed on their life preserver and the ways that it can be inflated.

"They can inflate the vest manually using the oral inflation valves by pulling the lanyards and letting the carbon dioxide bottle blow it up, or if they are unconscious, it will inflate itself when they hit the water," Sergeant Anderson said.

The efficiency of the equipment, along with the pilot's knowledge of life support training, can save a pilot's life after egress, and they get this training first-hand at Tyndall.