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Old 09-03-2013, 07:31   #46
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Re: Required

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Originally Posted by 67Therapy View Post
I used to fly Navy helicopters and have done rescue work. I can see a flare from a longgggg ways away. They are the BEST rescue tool you have. Electronics aren't foolproof, and in the "last leg" of rescue they aren't the most useful tool...my eyes are outside the aircraft looking for you.

To visually spot a boat (or person) from the air even with a gps location is often very difficult.

I agree they're expensive. If people could 'opt out' of if they were optional, people wouldn't carry them, and rescuers would likely not see some targets at night if they didn't have flares...even with a gps location. Nanny state debate, meh...I want to be found, and I want to find anyone who wants to be found.

1. Carry flares.
2. Tie glow sticks on your PFDs! At night, a rescuer on night vision goggles can see a glow stick from a long ways. Even better, spin one on a string above your head like a propeller....can be seen very easily.
One thing I decided for sure after flying night time missions over water with NVG's, was that I was always going to have several strobes on my boat, so that I could found at night quickly.

I can remember seeing a strobe once from a good ten miles away at night throught the NVG's. It made a believer out of me.

Even if they weren't required by law, I would never get rid of my visual signalling equipment, including flares and strobes.
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Old 09-03-2013, 08:59   #47
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Seems to me there are two related but different ideas being discussed at once here.

As to the regulatory issue, I understand the the opposition to being required to purchase or maintain equipment that an individual feels is not relevant to them. Perhaps they have an established emergency plan that includes a different form of visual aid that to there mind is easier to see, deploy, or maintain. Or perhaps they simply don't want to be told what they MUST do in their vessel on the high seas. Plausible arguments, both. But there are rules that we must follow, or at least make our best effort to comply with the intent of the rule. That is one of our responsibilities as captains, to ourselves, passengers and crew, and other boaters. I can't see a real way around that.

As for whether flares are still relevant in the electronic age, if they have worked at ALL in signaling rescuers then you have to at least acknowledge them as an option. The more instances they have accomplished this task, the more weight their inclusion in your kit needs to be given. Are they maintenance free? No. They expire because chemicals degrade over time, and they get wet from moist environments. Strobe batteries must be replaced at regular intervals also, and bulbs burn out. Chemical light sticks require less maintenance, and are less expensive to purchase and replace, but are not always visible from as far away as a strobe or a flare. Benefits versus drawbacks.

There is no argument than can be made for a radio signaling device being a replacement for a visual one. Two different tools for two different jobs.

And the icing on the cake is the Navy pilot who actually told us what it is that he does and does not see and hear. If we can't listen to realities as related by the professionals who do the job every day, then we are doomed by our own ignorance, no matter what we carry.
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Old 09-03-2013, 09:04   #48
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Re: Required

I think flares are useful during the second stage of rescue: helping the rescuers to home in on where you are located (particularly at night). However, thinking that a flare will initiate help coming your way is optimistic. It is too short lived to have a guarantee of being spotted. And, if there is anyone around to see a flare, the chances are much greater that there will be people around monitoring the VHF radio.
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Old 09-03-2013, 16:56   #49
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Re: Required

Just as a further point of information regarding the laser alternative (and why the USCG will struggle to incorporate them into the regulation) . . . . it is in fact illegal in the US to point/shine a laser at aircraft (HR658 section 311 39A). There are two reasons for this law . . . (1) that the laser many dazzle/distract/blind the pilot, (2) that the laser may damage night vision/light intensifier equipment.

There is a specific exemption in this law for "(3) by an individual using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal." However, the above two concerns are still valid (perhaps the second even more so because of the very common operational use of NVGs in SAR), and they concern the USCG should laser devices be encouraged/become more common.
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Old 09-03-2013, 18:20   #50
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Re: Required

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One thing I decided for sure after flying night time missions over water with NVG's, was that I was always going to have several strobes on my boat, so that I could found at night quickly.
Strobes are excellent as well. I apologize for not mentioning them earlier...some of the conversation tenor involved costing, so I seemed to have neglected to mention them as I think many of them are pricey. Nevertheless, they are excellent rescue devices...we carried them in our vests and had a matching velcro patch on our helmet to stick them onto if we found ourselves in the water.

Take a look at the USCG rescue video here posted here today...the alone and unafraid USCG rescue swimmer uses several glow sticks on his person/equipment so the helo crew can keep track of him. Glow sticks are super cheap, super reliable, super visible.
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Old 09-03-2013, 18:59   #51
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Re: Required

With regard to lasers, the CG is definitely of two minds about them. While they may attract attention, they also cause problems with night vision and low light equipment. A CG pilot hit by laser is required to immediately abort any mission, return the aircraft to base, and is grounded for 24 hours.

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Feb 25, 2013
U.S. Coast Guard pilots across the country have been targeted by laser pointers, with more Coast Guard flights interrupted by laser strikes last year than in any other year, Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann reported last week.

He cited the Federal Aviation Administration as the source of data indicating laser strikes rose from 283 to 3,591 between 2005 and 2011 and exceeded 3,700 last year. His article mentions Lt. j.g. Ryan McCue, a pilot with Coast Guard Air Station Houston who has been targeted twice.

"It can be a big drain on the unit if we’re constantly being lasered," McCue told Lehmann. "When a crew gets lasered, they can't fly again for 24 hours or until they can get in to see an eye doctor for an examination and are medically cleared. Meanwhile, another crew has to be woken up in the middle of the night to fill in. With only 17 people at our air station that can fly, it can take a serious toll on our mission effectiveness."

"If it flies, it's been targeted," said Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesperson. "Hardly a night goes by in the U.S. that we don't have three to five laser incidents, if not more, in all the major metropolitan areas. I saw several laser reports just last night. It's something that happens every night somewhere in the country."

Those who use laser pointers to target pilots can be sentenced to as much as five years in prison and fined up to $11,000.
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Old 11-03-2013, 05:36   #52
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Re: Required

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A CG pilot hit by laser is required to immediately abort any mission, return the aircraft to base, and is grounded for 24 hours.
I am curious about this statement. Does it in fact apply to an SAR mission being flashed by a 'signaling laser' by the person in distress? Does the SAR then abort?

Or does it only apply to random laser pointers being flashed at the hell not associated with the person in distress?

If it's the first, then the folks selling the 'rescue lasers' are doing a real disservice to the community by not being very very clear about it.
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Old 11-03-2013, 07:27   #53
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Re: Required

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I am curious about this statement. Does it in fact apply to an SAR mission being flashed by a 'signaling laser' by the person in distress? Does the SAR then abort?

Or does it only apply to random laser pointers being flashed at the hell not associated with the person in distress?

If it's the first, then the folks selling the 'rescue lasers' are doing a real disservice to the community by not being very very clear about it.
Don't know. The CG has published a number of articles and notices with regard to laser strikes and subsequent operations. Haven't seen anything on whether or not there is any pilot discretion. There may be some latitude for professional decision-making by the pilot, but I suspect the CG would rather that at least publicly it be portrayed as a definite (better publicity for their case) and I think this is where their difficulty comes in with signalling lasers. The FAA has published a "safe" level of laser light at 50 nanowatts per square centimeter and a "not too distracting" level at 5 microwatts per square centimeter. Assume that signalling lasers will fall in that range and that CG will have flight procedures that recognize and accept same, but can't substantiate that.
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Old 11-03-2013, 15:57   #54
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Re: Required

In coastal waters, I doubt that VHF is more effective than flares.

A few years ago, I took part in flare training. Just before beginning to light flares (parachute and handheld) we broadcast a warning on VHF 16. However, at least 4 boats came, inquiring about what was happening. Obviously, the people in these boats weren't listening to their VHF, if they had one.

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Old 11-03-2013, 16:02   #55
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Re: Required

Just don't get in trouble on New Year's Eve around midnight.
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Old 11-03-2013, 16:08   #56
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Re: Required

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In coastal waters, I doubt that VHF is more effective than flares.

A few years ago, I took part in flare training. Just before beginning to light flares (parachute and handheld) we broadcast a warning on VHF 16. However, at least 4 boats came, inquiring about what was happening. Obviously, the people in these boats weren't listening to their VHF, if they had one.
That only tells you how many people were not listening to the VHF--not all of those that heard you. And, with the radio you can repeat endlessly until you sink, and then you can do it with your handheld radio, providing information such as position, number of people, type of boat, etc. A flare sighting depends on someone looking in the correct direction at the right moment and then be able to relay something of use to emergency officials. 99% of people who spot a flare won't do anything at all, being ignorant of what they mean, so now you are down to hoping some mariner is looking in the correct direction at the right moment.
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Old 11-03-2013, 16:23   #57
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Re: Required

Why do you want to rely on officials for rescue? I prefer to rely on the boats / ships close by (even if I have an EPIRB for longer crossings).

But yes, when sailing in winter, there are not so many boats in sight. Then, I carry VHF *and* flares in addition to the EPIRB: belt and suspenders.

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Old 11-03-2013, 16:33   #58
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I don't want to rely on "officials," but I think there is a much greater chance of someone with knowledge of marine things hearing you on the VHF radio and initiating a rescue than there is of someone even seeing the flare in the first place, let alone someone with enough knowledge to accurately estimate distance and direction, etc.

One time I spotted a flare dead ahead of me so I proceeded to look for the boat, but I couldn't find them until they directed me in via VHF radio. This was within two miles of a Coast Guard station and a small city and numerous other boats during the middle of the boating season--I was the only one who spotted the flare. I could very easily have been looking at the chart, or fiddling with some line, or whatever that would have had me looking away. Turned out to be a small runabout needing gasoline, so not really much of a "rescue," but it reinforced my belief that flares are not very useful except to direct someone to your location in the dark once they are in the vicinity and actively looking for you.

Take a read of the book Rescue in the Pacific about the Queen's Birthday Storm and how often flares failed miserably to alert anyone, but often a handheld spotlight worked when shone directly at searching aircraft.
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Old 15-03-2013, 08:40   #59
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Re: Required

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I am curious about this statement. Does it in fact apply to an SAR mission being flashed by a 'signaling laser' by the person in distress? Does the SAR then abort?
I fly with coasties pretty regularly. I asked an H-60 guy who used to be stationed in Sitka this question. Although he is not currently on a USCG assignment right now and may not know the latest guidance, he said that lasers were an excellent signalling device.

When I started the conversation with him about rescue devices, he abruptly interrupted me and said "get a 406 EPIRB...and register it!" So that's #1 in his eyes. Other recommendations from him based on what he has SEEN:
-RED LED flashlights can be seen by NVGs easily
-Flares
-Anything that makes light near the IR spectrum

He rescued a boater once without a radio who ONLY had flares...

Interestingly, he was not a huge fan of SPOT because they had too many people using it who were not really in great distress.

I will agree that as a pilot, I'm very sensitive to people using lasers. Many are harmful and for some reason, there are a lot of nutjobs who point them at aircraft around the world. They can be disorienting and disabling...and dangerous ones can simply be bought on ebay. If you use a laser as a rescue device (they are eye-safe) I'd minimize pointing it AT the aircraft once you have their attention because that crew doesn't know if your laser is eye-safe.
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Old 15-03-2013, 13:19   #60
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Re: Required

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The big advantage of flares are


(A) you have an alert mechanism that doesn't rely on electronics

(b) its a very effective close in alerting mechanism

(C) helicopters like them for ground wind indications


They remain very useful items,

Mandatory carriage laws are useful in ensuring compliance.

As for useless laws, the statute books are full of them , that's not the discussion for CF
+1


Flares are certainly an expensive PITA. Wish they lasted longer -- can't they come up with better formulations?! But I sure wouldn't want to go to sea without them. When you need them -- you, really, really need them -- a bit like liferafts.

I think the one bit of new gear which has covered part of the function of flares (and covered much cheaper and better) is handheld VHF with DSC, something I would also not like to be without now. Now since almost everyone monitors VHF DSC, everyone out to the horizon will know that you are in distress, and will know exactly where you are. How cool is that? It's so good that I even think about buying a second HX851 just to keep in the grab bag. There is already a battery tray for my existing HX851 there, with a baggy full of lithium AA batts, but I worry that in a big disaster one might not manage to find and grab the VHF on the way off the boat.

But even these does not make flares obsolete. Carry 'em, renew them when they expire, and stop winging!
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