SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You often see them flying over the skies of Sioux Falls: the F-16 Fighter jets from the South Dakota Air National Guard.
But what you don’t ever see is some of the training the pilots have to go through. As you’re about to see that training doesn’t always happen in the air.
F-16 fighter pilots are getting their feet wet when it comes to water survival training and it starts with one pull.
“It’s going to simulate them being dragged through the ocean, they have to unclip themselves from the parachute and then they’ll swim over to the next station and have a parachute thrown over them as if it had landed on top of them,” Staff Sergeant Joe Baustian said.
The key to finding your way out of a parachute is to find a seam on the fabric and follow it until you’re out.
“An opportunity like this to use the Midco pool is great work where we can actually get in the water. Put all our equipment to work; just train in case we actually have to use this someday,” F-16 fighter pilot Major Aaron Werner said.
They also train how to get in their rafts that are automatically inflated and deployed when they eject.
Tech Sergeant Jeffrey Campbell is the instructor. He says pilots have to be ready for every scenario.
“These guys fly all over the world, they literally could land in the Atlantic or the Pacific, they could land close to an island where there’s maybe six inches of water at a pretty decent rate of speed and now they have an injury and then you have the darkness; that’s another panic factor for a lot of people,” Campbell said.
That’s why keeping calm is key.
“The will to survive is something they tell us, you could be out there for days. Maybe just a few short hours, but just the will to survive and keep your head in the game,” Werner said.
And hopefully above water.
“It’s definitely a possibility every time we go up there and fly and we have to know how to use our stuff,” Werner said.
The South Dakota Air National Guard has close to 40 pilots, two of whom are women.