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Stay Put! Let Search and Rescue Come to You

Renowned mountain flying instructor and author of Mountain Flying Bible, Sparky Imeson, was involved in a crash during an instructional flight in Montana over the weekend. He and the student survived. Details can be found here in this article.

The part that has me puzzled is why an experienced person like Sparky would leave the crash site. Hopefully we’ll eventually be able to talk to him about it, but for now this serves as a good object lesson.

Had Sparky stayed put, he would have been located early Monday morning, not Monday afternoon. This is pretty typical. Someone goes for help and they either are rescued far later than the victims left at the original accident site, and often in worse physical shape, or they die trying to get help while those who were left behind survive (the Kim tragedy being a perfect example of the latter. This is a pretty common scenario for SAR to see.

Usually, you want to stay at the crash site (or accident site or wherever you find yourself lost) unless there are extraordinary extenuating circumstances that make it unlikely anyone will come looking for you or no shelter is available. If leaving, be sure you know where you are going and how you will get there, leaving a note and preferably a ground signal indicating the direction taken. But, it is almost always better to Stay Put!

If they had a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) the issue would have been solved. Based on the time line in the article, with a PLB they would likely have been rescued Sunday afternoon. Even better.

For pilots, let me stress that the ELT in your aircraft is NOT reliable. Doesn’t matter even if it is a 406 MHz unit. Too many things can go wrong and the ELT will not work, including the aircraft burning up, as was the case in this instance. In my opinion, an ELT should be treated as backup to a PLB.

I look forward to talking with Sparky about this incident, but in the meantime, don’t try to be a hero. Stay put and let Search and Rescue have its day.

Additional information: Sparky Imeson’s Mountain Flying Web site.