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Mariners Help Plan Emergency Response to Aircraft Water Landings

DISCLAIMER: All references to any companies or organizations herein are not to be construed as an endorsement of, or preference for, any product, service, or enterprise by the United States Merchant Marine Academy, Maritime Administration, United States Department of Transportation, or United States Government, or employees thereof.
 
KINGS POINT, N.Y., March 16, 2018 - On March 6th, Aeronautical Data Systems (ADS) brought together Aviation and Maritime professionals for the first-ever “Joint Oceanic Search and Rescue Conference” held at FlightSafety International in Teterboro, NJ. This history-making event allowed experts from both communities to discuss the possibility of an organized maritime response to emergency water landings.
 
The Maritime Panel included; Captain George Sandberg, United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Professor Emeritus and President of the New York Metro Chapter of the Council of American Master Mariners (CAMM), Captain Frank Zabrocky, Regional Vice President of CAMM, Professors from USMMA’s Department of Marine Transportation, CAPT David Moskoff, CAPT Jamie Rock, CAPT James Zatwarnicki, Jr., CDR William Brewer, Matthew Bonvento, Chief Joseph Abbamonte and Captain Lou Guzzo from the Fire Department, City of New York, Marine Division. The Aviation Panel included pilots, safety officers and industry associations.
 
The conference began with a welcome and introductions by ADS Founder, James Stabile Sr. and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, James Stabile, Jr., who provided background on how the conference came about. He explained that while his company was developing emergency software that enables pilots to calculate emergency landing locations, they were unexpectedly identifying thousands of additional alternatives for those rare situations that will unavoidably result in over-water ditching.  “We realized that this would require a level of complexity that was going to go beyond just putting software in the hands of a pilot. Essentially, what we were doing was developing a software program that was going to ultimately require a crew on a ship to climb over the side at their own risk and help people out when they ditched.” Stabile went on to say, “We realized that we needed to bring in folks from the maritime industry. Referencing USMMA’s motto, Acta non Verba’, translated, ‘Deeds not Words’ he applauded how Kings Pointers, “in the spirit of that motto began charging at the problem with us, rather than running away from it.”   
 
The day was filled with discussions related to current search and rescue (SAR) practices, communication challenges, equipment recommendations and presentations. Captain Jamie Rock’s presentation,Search and Rescue from the Perspective of a Merchant Marine Officer, was a first-hand account of the response to the Yemenia Air Flight 626 Crash off Comoros in 2009. Captain Rock, a Merchant Mariner, who was serving as a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy’s Civil Affairs Office, was tasked with leading the response. Relying on his maritime training and experience, he led SAR operations until its finish as a recovery mission. Captain Rock conveyed his frustration in how delays in communication hindered a timely response, resulting in only one survivor.
Rock’s presentation invited further discussion of current flight checklists, communication procedures, safety and location devices and the opportunity for enhancements. This theme was echoed by the afternoon’s guest speaker, Dr. Philip Zeeck, M.D., who credited his ability to contact a ship with saving his life on September 5, 1960, when he and his co-pilot were forced to ditch their aircraft 400 miles off of Iceland.
 
At the conclusion of the conference, Stabile, Jr. said, “the conference was a tremendous success. We accomplished two major objectives: First, we were able to candidly air some misconceptions about existing SAR capability and protocol, and we examined some ways that this capability can be tangibly increased through cooperation by actors in the field. Second, we proved that the civilian aviation and maritime communities have more in common than not. We proved that they can talk through problems together. That means in the long run we'll be able to train together, plan together and, with any luck, effectively work together in saving lives around the world.”
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2018
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