May 2013

Several months ago (“Heading Bug,” June 2012) columnist David Hipschman weighed in with his ideas about what to carry in your Piper for emergencies, and he shared what he carries:

“Here’s what is currently in my ditch case. But I need to point out that it changes often as I come across things I like, or contemplate flights that differ in their potential for survival challenges:

A comprehensive first aid kit (unless you have a medical background, get a kit with good instructions in case what might happen exceeds your knowledge) with three days’ worth of my prescription medications, and painkillers prescribed for emergency purposes just in case.

“Fire-making tools—waterproof matches, a piezoelectric butane lighter, tinder and a firesteel. Insect repellent, sunscreen, high-energy food bars, straw-type water purifier, Mylar foil bivouac sack and space blanket, a large Swiss Army Knife and Leatherman Multi-Tool, duct tape, 25 feet of parachute cord, a small coil of wire, three small handheld signal flares, a small waterproof notepad and an indelible-ink pen.

“Optional things I toss in, depending on my flight plan: extra clothing, polypropylene pants, light windbreaker, a long-sleeved shirt, extra socks, crushable wide-brim hat, etc.

“But don’t forget your flight bag. In mine are additional essential items that are not in the ditch case: my cell phone, a handheld radio and extra batteries, several flashlights, a small compass, a hunting knife, an emergency strobe, a signal mirror and my pistol.”

So we thought we’d pose the question to our members and social media followers. Here are some of the items they suggested, and below that, some resources for finding them.


Suggested ditch kit items from members and followers:

 “Jelly beans—they don’t take up much space, they last a long time and they can provide a good source of emergency energy.”

 “As a Civil Air Search & Rescue member in Canada, I say a signal mirror, a reflective orange blanket and a water container.”

 “Matches, food, and anything bright to get rescuers’ attention is also helpful.”

 “Sabre beacon [PLB], life raft, first aid kit, life jacket, flare gun and a smart straw.”

 “EPIRB, dried rations, fire starter kit, small shelter, duct tape, rope, first aid kit with antibiotics.”

 “I do a lot of backcountry flying and I always have my satellite phone with me.”

 We hope that you never need to use your survival gear, but it’s much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

 If we’ve missed an item that you think is crucial, or if you want to weigh in with a review of any piece of survival equipment or share what you carry in your ditch kit, please join us online to give your opinion: You’ll need to log in, so remember that we do not use email addresses for your username. If you haven’t received an email with your current login information, please contact us.



You can probably figure out where to get jelly beans, matches and the like, but here’s some help to locate the rest.

 Satellite phone: DeLorme has a variety of communication devices including the inReach SE which allows you to send or receive text messages anywhere on the globe using the Iridium satellite network.

 Lighting: Though not specifically designed for aviation use, the headband-mounted Solite 250 from Light & Motion generates 250 lumens, has multiple settings and can last for up to 100 hours at the “read” setting.

 Life raft/life jacket: Survival Products sells and rents life rafts and sells life jackets and other survival gear.

Straw-type water purifier: A web search revealed these products available through NCur Survival Straw, LifeStraw, Aquamira McNett Frontier Emergency Water Filter Straw; and one from Cabela’s: Frontier Water Filter Straw.;

Pre-made kits: In addition to its rafts, Survival Products sells ready-made survival kits geared specifically for Part 91 operators. This kit includes canopy with inflatable mast; equipment container; signal flag; two-cell flashlight with batteries; three signal flares; first aid kit; raft repair kit; sea dye marker; signal mirror; food rations; water rations and signal whistle.

PLB: Several companies sell PLBs including Piper Flyer Association supporters Survival Products, Sarasota Avionics, Aircraft Spruce, Sporty’s and Chief Aircraft.;;;;

Not for your ditch kit, but an important piece of survival equipment is your Piper’s ELT. If you haven’t already, you might also want to upgrade your ELT to a newer model that transmits on 406 MHz as the future of 121.5 is in doubt. Emergency Beacon has a variety of systems to choose from.