The U.S. Air Force has strict standards for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official Air Force Auxiliary covering its airplanes and personnel. The Florida Wing of CAP has many Air Force and Homeland Security missions over water, and many local squadrons like Marco Island, Naples and Punta Gorda perform coastal patrols where they look for stranded boaters. One of the Air Force standards states that for any flight that is over water beyond gliding distance to land, the aircraft must be equipped with a suitable life raft, and all aircrew members wear a personal flotation device (PFD). In addition, all aircrew members must be certified for Water Survival.
The Water Survival certification process begins with taking an online course and then passing the accompanying test. After passing the test, aircrew members attend an approximately six-hour session comprised of classroom work, aircraft training, and a pool session. The certification process must be repeated every three years in order to stay current.
Recently, the Marco Island CAP Squadron conducted one of these training sessions at the Marco Island Executive Airport. There were 17 participants from squadrons as far away as Sarasota and Ft. Lauderdale. Training started with a classroom session, followed by ground exercises in the CAP airplane, where students formed up into typical aircrews and practiced aircraft evacuation in a simulated emergency. The training concluded at the Greater Marco Family YMCA where swimming tests were conducted, and aircrew members practiced life raft righting and entry.
Training and certification classes are conducted throughout the state, with the Marco Island class typically conducted in March.