What's Inside: 747 Slide/Raft Survival Kit
A while ago I bought this awesome expired Life Raft Rescue Kit from a 747, and I thought you guys might like to see what's inside.
This kit was assembled by a company called DME Corporation in 2004. It contains a number of life-limited items. I guess when a kit like this expires, it somehow magically makes its way from the company servicing the aircraft to Ebay. The kit is shown here with a banana for scale (please note: this banana is slightly smaller than average).
The outer yellow pouch (top) seems like it's made from Ripstop nylon. It has a large flap with hook and loop closure that I assume fastens it to the life raft somehow, and a smaller flap with snap closure to hold the contents in.
Inside are two smaller transparent plastic packs holding the different contents. The first pack (left) is the Survival, Utility and First Aid Kit Base Kit Module, and the second pack (right) is Survival, Utility and First Aid Kit Five Year Replacement Kit Module. I assumed that all the time-limited components would be in the second Module, but the Sea Dye was in the first and it is full-on expired.
I opened up the Base Module and read the manual and the Immediate Action checklist. First thing to do is get everyone evenly distributed around the outside of the raft. Please remain seated! Then cut loose from the aircraft before it drags the raft to the bottom of the ocean.
The Base Module I received had already been opened, and the knife and signal mirror disappeared before they got to me. However, the diagram in the manual shows another knife attached to the raft by the mooring line. This is a good thing because "Open the Survival Kit" comes after "Cut Loose from the Sinking Aircraft" in the Immediate Action Checklist. The radio beacon and beacon lights activate automatically when they come in contact with water.
A member of the aircraft's crew will assume control of the raft and assign someone to be in charge of the survival kit. Once that's done, it's time to treat the serious injuries using the three triangular bandages, two gauze compresses, two rolls of surgical tape (with some kind of goop on the outside of the cases!), and a bunch of 1 in. x 20 in. adhesive bandages (band-aids). A skilled first responder could cover a lot of ground with these few items, but it seems like some serious trauma components would be a nice addition to the kit. The plane itself will have a much better first aid kit and a defibrillator, but I don't know that the crew would be able grab that while they're busy evacuating the passengers.
This is the documentation included in the Base Module.
After stabilizing the injured passengers dosing everyone with seasickness tablets, it's time to inspect the raft and patch any holes. Two mechanical patches are included in the Base Module. You pass the side with the rubber gasket inside the tube so that the gasket goes all the way around the hole, then push the facing plate against it from the outside, and tighten the wing nut to seal it. The manual says that even with one tube fully deflated, the raft will remain afloat. Note the lanyard. Lanyards are your friends, even on land, but ESPECIALLY in the ocean. Imagine watching your patch sink to the bottom of the ocean while the air quietly hisses out of your raft. The lanyard prevents that, if you remember to use it.
Here's the collapsible fabric bailer, with two dehydrated sponges behind it. The manual stresses the importance of keeping the raft's interior dry. Bail out the water and wipe dry with sponges, it says. The sponges and bailer can also be used (in conjunction with the raft's roof) to gather rain water for drinking. You rarely see one deployed in pictures, but the big round raft and the slide rafts on these jets all have a roof that can be set up once the other Immediate Action Checklist items are complete.
Here are the two signal components included in the Base Module along with the missing mirror (as well as the dehydrated sponges again). One is a whistle (with lanyard!) from Datrex. Datrex makes a whole range of life safety products, including the water packets in the other Module, and probably the missing knife and mirror from the Base Module. There is also a Sea Dye Marker from a company called Presto Dyechem. I talked with their owner a few months ago and he's a really nice guy. The Dye has a 3-5 year shelf life depending on storage conditions. You inspect it by squeezing the pouch. If the pouch feels like it's full of sand, then it's good to go. If it has hardened into a stone like this one, then it is expired. This one is very expired. It's weird that they would include it with the Base Module.
I opened one of the triangular bandages for your viewing pleasure. These can be used as slings, bandages, improvised tourniquets, etc. If your raft is tethered to another raft from the jet, or if you followed the instructions and deployed the sea anchor, then you can wrap those lines with one of these bandages and reduce abrasion to the raft. You can also use them to strain larger particulate matter from drinking water prior to treatment. The more particulate is in your water, the less effective your chemical water treatments (like iodine and chlorine) will be. This bandage is old-school muslin, and has that vintage first aid kit smell. I love that smell.
Let's now turn our attention to the Five Year Module. All contents in this module are time-limited. The Module is double-packed in heavy duty plastic. It was a wrassle to get it open. This Module was also still sealed when I got it, so all contents are intact.
Once everyone's in the raft, the raft is clear of the aircraft, and injuries are stable, it's time for everyone to take their seasickness meds. This packet holds 100 tablets. It's important to do this right away; if people get sick and start vomiting, dehydration becomes a serious risk.
Even minor injuries can be a serious risk when exposed to all the microorganisms the ocean has to offer. This kit contains a LOT of povidone iodine for killing germs around those injuries. Also pictured here is the bottle of Potable Aqua water treatment tablets. These are Iodine tablets. The CDC says that Chlorine Dioxide is more effective than iodine for emergency chemical water treatment, and Chlorine Dioxide tablets seem more common than iodine in military aviation survival kits now. If it rains, fresh water can be gathered from the life raft roof. The only container for this water in the survival kit is the bailing bucket and the plastic bags the Modules are stored in, but no volume is given for either. That feels like an oversight to me, especially because the iodine tablets are only effective for a specific volume of water.
Here's are the lip balm and the flares. The lip balm has gotten a little melty at some point and the tubes are greasy to the touch. When I first got into this industry, I was surprised to see how often lip stuff is included in these kits.
The Skyblazer flares are from Orion, another life safety company. I've never fired one of these off, but I'm dying to try it. There just isn't a safe direction to fire them around here. The kit includes (or is supposed to include) these flares, the signal mirror, and the sea dye as visual signals. The raft itself also has flashing beacons and a one-way radio transmitter. Both of those are activated by exposure to water. The manual says you can expect "assistance" within 24 hours, anywhere in the world. I feel like there are places in the Indian Ocean where it might take longer than that, but what do I know?
The drinking water pouches and Charms candy included in the kit are actually for medicinal purposes, to treat people suffering from dehydration or low blood sugar. Regular, healthy humans can typically survive 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Since the expected timeline for rescue (or "assistance") is shorter than that, these should only be used for people in distress. Charms Candy has been in survival kits and military rations since World War II. It's not a balanced meal, but it contains sugar to keep you moving and Vitamin C to stave off scurvy (not that scurvy will be an issue in a 747 life raft unless things go very wrong). I learned a few years ago that Marines believe Charms are bad luck and throw away the candy included in their rations.
And that's my 747 life raft kit. I hope you enjoyed it!