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VOTC (Flight safety, Practice and Test Center 
by: Ron Kraan, Sven Scheffers
Established in 1957, the Vliegveiligheids-, Oefen- en Testcentrum (Flight safety, Practice and Test Center) started it first course at Soesterberg Airbase. The primary objective of this center was to drill pilots in the use of their flight safety equipment. Secondary the center advised in the making of regulations, books, manuals and the testing of new equipment.

After a couple of moves, the VOTC found it's home at Gilze-Rijen Airbase in the Netherlands were Flightgear On-line visited the center.

The VOTC teaches all airmen (pilots, technical crew, attendants, rescue swimmers and others) in the use of the available flight safety equipment on their aircraft. Also the skill of surviving in an hostile environment is trained. The courses given at the VOTC are:

  • Initial Combat survival Course (4 to 5 weeks)

  • Refreshment Course

  • Dinghy Drill (also on sea)

  • Parasailing

  • Conversion Course

  • HUET (Helicopter Underwater Egress Training)

  • CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue)

  • Theater Update Briefing (Bosnia, Italy, Cambodia)

  • And tailor made courses on request.

The center also evaluate, test and develop flight safety equipment for airmen. The center advises the Airforce on acquisition and/or replacement of this gear. The testing takes place in actual operational conditions. For instance the testing of new gloves and a new type of snow saw in Canada (minus 40 Celsius) and the testing of new flight coveralls at squadron level. The VOTC is also involved in (crash) accident investigation were a piece of flight safety equipment was used. Also advice and training is offered to the Police Air wing, (NLR) Dutch Flight Laboratory and on special request. 

One of the main "attractions" at the VOTC is the heated swimming pool. This multipurpose indoor pool can be used at daytime for night simulation also. Aircrews are trained her to use their flotation devices (dinghy, life preserver) and how to escape from a ditched helicopter (Egress). The center has 5 instructors who are licensed divers and they keep a sharp lookout while a class is using the pool. The egress training is carried out with the HUET (Helicopter Underwater Egress Trainer) and SWET (Shallow Water Egress Trainer). The HUET device can be modified to simulate the layout of different helicopter types. The SWET is used on the initial training only. The crew learns to escape from, for instance, the hulk of a Cougar transport helicopter. On our visit the HUET was equipped as the Apache attack helicopter. When the crew is strapped in, the HUET is lowered into the water and can be inverted (what usually happens with ditched helicopters). Doors and escape hatches can be jammed to make things even more difficult. Try to imagine yourself in the dark, in cold water, strapped in an upside down helicopter with the emergency door you want to use blocked…. One of the most useful items in this scenario is the HEED bottle. This breathing device gives the user a valuable three minutes of spare oxygen. The crew also learns to survive in cold water. Most people would try to swim to keep warm. It is a fact however, that floating in a folded up manner without moving keeps you alive longer. During Flightgear On-line's visit, some fresh PC-7 student pilots were practicing basic use of their life preserver and dinghy. Getting in your dinghy with inflated LPU-3 Bananas under your arms turned out to be not so easy. It also showed us an alternative way of using your flying helmet. An HGU-55/P is very useful as a bucket to empty your water filled raft…

For their courses, the VOTC has a very large stock of gear. Helmets in use are mostly former HGU-26/P's converted to HGU-55/P types. Oxygen masks are used and rejected MBU-12/P examples without communications. Most redundant flightgear (damaged, lifetime expired) is send to the center from operational units. In there inventory the center has a.o. coveralls, g-pants, helmets, masks, life preservers, dinghy's, parachutes, torso harnesses, survival vests and items, soft packs and even door slides from the KDC-10 tanker aircraft. In the main building some classrooms can be found. The exhibition room is in fact a large hall were different environments are life size displayed. These environments include a.o. desert, snow and woodland theatres. Two Egress cockpits are available (F-16 and PC-7) and a mockup fuselage part of a KDC-10 is also in use for door training. Outside the facilities some examples of survival shelters can be found. They are made by using natural materials like trees and branches.

Sea drill
Besides pool training, the VOTC also supplies sea drills. This is making it the only Royal Netherlands Airforce unit to operate a boat. For sea drill pilots are parasailed behind a speedboat. While disconnecting from the boat, they have to inflate their LPU's and drop their seat pack. On impact in the water, the parachute has to be released (manually or by sea/u-wars). The pilot then has to board his dinghy and try to contact a SAR helicopter. The SAR helicopter drops a rescue swimmer and both are winched up. This marks the end of their course and making them Combat Ready.

Flightgear On-line likes to thank the men and women at the VOTC for their help. More information on this subject can be found at the VOTC's website, just follow the link.

Source: Royal Netherlands Airforce VOTC


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