Lemoore Naval Station's New Training "Dunker"

Lemoore, Calif. "So he's feet first, and he starts to drag, and now he's got to release himself from the coat fittings as well," said Aerospace Physiologist Lt. Grey Pickerill.

Navy pilots hope it will never happen, but just in case they have to eject from their jet they need to be able to act immediately without thinking. "At night they've got to be able to get those coat fittings off his chest... And also get that lift raft pan off so that he can get into his raft," said Pickerill.

Lt. Grey Pickerill is one of the instructors at Naval Air Station Lemoore's Aviation Survival Training Center. They've been doing water survival training here since 1972, but just this summer the base has added this state of the art modular egress training system, or "dunker." It simulates a helicopter crash landing in water. "It doesn't just go under water, it rotates upside down, so you have all the water rushing in. Especially if you have cold water in a real environment, you would have a lot of fear and a lot of panic. "

Every Navy pilot has to go through this training twice before they even get in a plane, and then they have to take a refresher course every four years. Most of the pilots say it's not really difficult, it's just a real test of your confidence level.

There's a reason they call this dunker "panic in a can." Even those fighter pilots who've been through this exercise two and three times have to take a deep breath before they take the plunge. "The first time you're kinda like 'whoa'. It freaks you out mentally more than physically. It's really not a physical thing. It's just trying to stay relaxed in the water. If your mind is tensed up, your body is tensed up and you're not treading water right, you're not swimming right and you start sinking," said Commander Zeno Rausa, a Navy Pilot.

Lt. Pickerill said most jet crashes occur over land. But for those pilots who find themselves submerged, they'll have a much better chance of getting out because of this new dunker.

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