I still don't much like these in aviation rafts, but currently at least one is still required for Part 135 operations.
Pyrotechnics may be long time favorites for survival signaling, but they have significant drawbacks. At best, they last a few minutes, those most typically carried in aviation life rafts last only a few seconds. Flares and pyrotechnic devices are of limited use; one shot that you have to hope gets noticed during their brief moment of glory. You are gambling someone will see them.
If you plan on using flares effectively, you have to have plenty on hand to compensate for their short endurance. However, the most effective ones take up a lot of room, weigh a lot and cost a great deal. Smaller flares still take up a lot of room and enough to be effective requires even more. This is a double whammy for use in aviation life rafts where both space and weight are generally quite dear. Moreover, even cheap flares aren't inexpensive and they all must be replaced regularly.
The other problem is the relative danger involved using some of these devices. In training I've seen people inadvertently burned and life rafts holed. And, this wasn't in the sort of stress filled, difficult circumstances in which a survivor might need to use these devices. For more information on pyrotechnic devices, see Signaling Group - Hot Stuff.
EAM included venerable Mk13 MOD-0 Day/Night hand flare.
The RFD Navigator includes a pair of top rated Pains Wessex Mk6 Hand flares.
BFGoodrich and Hoover use the Pains Wessex Mk 14 Day/Night hand flare, in essence a repackaged Mk 13 with better ergonomics.
The RFD "R" series raft includes a Pains Wessex Mk 14 Day/Night hand flare and a Miniflare 3, which includes 8 aerial meteor flares and their pen style launcher. Air Cruisers and Survival Products include Skyblazer XLT aerial meteor flares, two and three respectively.
In Winslow's "Basic" Part 91 kit are 3 Skyblazer hand held flares, 3 Skyblazer XLT aerial flares and one Skyblazer smoke signal. The Part 135 kit includes only 1 Skyblazer hand held flares and 3 Skyblazer XLT aerial flares.
Bottom line is that none of these kits include enough flares. Winslow's Part 91 Basic kit comes closest to barely adequate.
A signal mirror is the basic survival signaling device. All include one with their Part 91/135 kits, though size and quality varies. For more information on signal mirrors, see Signaling Group - Reflections Of Light.
Surprisingly, our Hoover Type I raft did not include a signal mirror, even though one is required for Part 135, a serious deficiency. Prior Hoover rafts we tested have used a 2 x 3 inch Survival, Inc. polycarbonate mil-spec mirror.
EAM and Survival Products use inexpensive, lightweight and rather flimsy metal mirrors. Inadequate by any measure.
BFGoodrich includes a 2 x 2 BCB polycarbonate mirror.
Air Cruisers includes a 2 x 4 Skyblazer acrylic mirror with lanyard which we have previously rated as poor.
RFD/Revere told us that the RFD rafts will be equipped with Revere USCG approved metal signal mirrors going forward. They are heavy and hard to aim and far from the most effective. A poor choice.
Winslow use the 3 x 5 inch Survival, Inc. polycarbonate mil-spec mirror with a lanyard attached, best of the bunch.
One advantage of the acrylic and polycarbonate mirrors is that they float. Every mirror should be equipped with a lanyard and should be able to be operated with one hand.
Sea marker dye is a standard part of most aviation SEPs. The powder creates a bright Day-Glo green "stain" in the water, and as the raft drifts, the green tail is visible from quite a distance. Unfortunately, it doesn't last too long, dissipating in about 40 - 60 minutes in calm waters, much less in rougher waters.
For years the mil-spec sea dye packet was standard in every Part 135 SEP. Now only Hoover, EAM and BFGoodrich include one.
Winslow, Survival Products and Air Cruisers include the much smaller, really inadequate, Skyblazer sea dye package. None is included in the RFD rafts.
Winslow now includes the excellent RescueStreamer signaling device as standard. This is far superior to sea dye.
Just how important they are is questionable, but they could conceivably be of use if you ditch in well traveled waters or close to shore, in which case you want it to be as loud as possible. A whistle is included with every kit. Hoover fails to include a lanyard on theirs.
Air Cruisers, Survival Products, Winslow, RFD include a basic pealess survival whistle.
Hoover includes a conventional plastic whistle.
BFGoodrich includes the vastly superior, though slightly bulkier, WeatherStorm Safety Whistle, with lanyard. A much better choice.
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