Training saves lives.
We gained new evidence of this truth Wednesday, when at least eight of 11 passengers survived a U.S. Navy aircraft crash in the Philippine Sea. A search for the three outstanding passengers is underway.
Still, the fact that three passengers are missing suggests the plane impacted the water hard and/or was submerged. As such, we can almost certainly put the survival of the eight passengers down to good preparation.
After all, the U.S. Navy is a world leader in preparing aircrews for water crashes. Seeing as the aircraft involved in Wednesday's crash was a C-2 aircraft carrier cargo plane, the aircrew would have been trained at the higher end of the water survival spectrum. If the remaining passengers were assigned to a carrier, they would also have undergone some training.
For Naval/Marine Corps aircrews, the learning tends to occur at the Aviation Survival Training Center in Pensacola, Fla. There, personnel are briefed on what to expect in the event of a water-impact crash and, more importantly, how to survive such a crash. This involves a ride in "the dunker," an airframe simulator that is dropped into a swimming pool. While instructors watch over the trainees, they learn how to disentangle themselves from their seatbelts and find their way to an exit, sometimes in total darkness.
Similar facilities operate at the two Marine recruit depots at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton and for relevant personnel in the Army and Air Force. I believe the Secret Service also trains its agents in water evacuation techniques.
Regardless, there's no question that the investment is worth it.
The proof isn't rendered solely by the aircrew in Japan. In 1999, a sailor recorded the crash of a Marine Corps helicopter carrying 18 personnel. The video shows the speed and force with which the helicopter was submerged. However, 11 of the Marines on board were able to escape and survive.
The military's work might be dangerous, but the training below saves lives.