The Plan: Survival in a Hostile Environment

Lynn Gardner

In follow up, I’m posting this synopsis of back-country pilot Lynn Gardner’s personal survival plan for an off-field/hostile environment emergency landing. Lynn was the guest speaker at Avenger Field, Sweetwater, TX during the LLT Haunted Flying Tour and gave a practical and informative presentation on the topic.

Lynn notes “I hope you will publish this article and remind people that ‘comments and suggestions’ are encouraged. We want to have a conversation.”  Agreed! Please enter your comments with this post or in our Facebook group to continue the conversation.

Lynn Gardner and ‘Ann E’, her Cessna 180 Skywagon

“The Plan”

For pilots of single engine aircraft, having a plan for off-field landings in a hostile environment makes flying more enjoyable. A plan checks it off the list and gives you confidence, should your engine take a little time off. We all know the engine doesn’t make the airplane fly, it just makes it go farther, but after we are done flying, we should all focus on our plan.

In the event of an emergency, the first thing we need to remind ourselves (and it’s a tough one) is at the last moment, prior to impact, pull your feet back and tuck your arms in. Assuming a tucked position can save you from ankle/leg damage, it’s the number one injury to a pilot in a crash type landing. Most of us will find a good field, but we can’t count on it.

Lynn speaking at the WASP Museum, Sweetwater, TX

Having everything you need ON YOU is vital since your first instinct will be GET OUT. This covers ugly scenarios like landing IN A TREE or IN A CREEK. Wearing a survival vest will aid you in moving forward with the Plan right away, so put together a vest and wear it every time you put on your headset to fly low level or backcountry. I know most people look at me a little funny when I wear a survival vest, but they don’t have a Plan and I do. Your vest cannot cover every scenario, but it should cover the basics for 24 to 48 hours.

Since the advent of the PLB (personal locator beacon) our Plan became MUCH simpler – First-aid, Fire, Shelter, Water and Food. Making your own vest will help focus your Plan and make you clearly aware of the priorities. I have seen “ready-made” vests and, for the most part they are very good, but my preference has always been to make my own. The items you choose may vary depending on your area of frequent
operation and budget.

I use a fishing vest. It has great mesh ventilation and good storage. This list is part of THE PLAN but I don’t claim to have it all covered -  you might include different items but we can all learn by sharing our Plans. Additionally, everything in your airplane becomes a resource IF you can get to it safely; seat covers/wire/carpet/battery/fuel…

Here are the items in my vest:

PLB (ACR beacon linked to NOAA SARSAT)
2 knives (a TOOL LOGIC and Survival knife with parachute cord handle)
Leatherman WAVE (has pliers)
Hand gun (sometimes)
Maxi Pad (Thanks Julie)
Ace bandage
6-8 Band-aids
Alcohol wipes
Small Vaseline tin (CVS LIP THERAPY with aloe)
Off Bug Spray (but any Deet will do)
BLAST MATCH (single handed flint), Tool Logic also has a flint in the handle
Sealed wood matches
Sure Fire (fire starters)
Cotton balls with Vaseline
Life Straw
Folding canteen
S.O.L Survival Bivvy
Hiking Gaiters
Wire saw
Duct tape (survival 2” peel off backing)
10 feet of Mylar “Bird Scare” ribbon
Signal Mirror
Plastic poncho
Bear Bell
Notepad and pen
Cliff Bar

Be prepared, Be Safe.

A personal invitation from Lynn Gardner.
Also, I want to invite the LadiesLoveTaildraggers group to my fly-in the 23-25 of November. It is on the RAF calendar and my 2016 fly-in can be seen the video YouTube below. (We had to skip last year due to construction.) Dinner is from 2 -6 pm Saturday and Kayak trip details will be forthcoming. Please RSVP for Kayaking, needed for planning purposes. I am hoping for good weather!
7FL7, Lazy S Farms, NW of Gainseville, Florida. RSVP at 386-235-1447 or

  • Arty Trost
    Posted at 00:35h, 27 October Reply

    Lynn’s advice to tuck in your arms and pull back your feet makes a lot of sense. Thanks for that advice.
    As well as (or maybe instead of) the Mylar “bird scare” ribbon, I suggest a partial roll of florescent surveyor’s tape.
    I am trying to figure out how to adapt this information for my own flying – since I fly a single-seat open cockpit Light Sport airplane. I have to bundle up, and I’m not sure how I’d be able to move with the vest and all the equipment under my jacket and flight suit. She’s given me a lot to think about. Thanks for posting this.

    • Lynn Gardner
      Posted at 10:01h, 27 October Reply

      How about using a tether to your pants belt loop

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