What supplies are in passenger aircraft liferafts?

I was travelling for business a few weeks ago and reading the in-flight safety card in the pocket in front of your seat (as one does) and thinking about the practicalities of trying to get liferafts launched from the plane in the event it ditched in the water.

But then I realised: If you’re flying over a large body of water (say the Atlantic or Pacific oceans) and your aircraft ditches, and everyone gets into the liferafts and they launch safely etc - then what?

It’s going to be a few days before anyone can come and get you by ship, and assuming the weather holds out and there aren’t sharks or anything, you’re basically going to be just twiddling your thumbs with the other survivors. But you’re going to have to eat and epseically drink, especially if you’re really, really far from land (or they’re not exactly sure where you are), which raises my question:

What supplies, if any, are in the large emergency escape rafts on a commercial airliner?

My crew installs life rafts on new 737’s. All that is in the life raft is the life raft and an emergency locator beacon. Nothing else. As we have seen recently, when aircraft go missing, the search and rescue effort begins almost immediately.

Helicopters can get there faster than ships can, and there are probably already some ships relatively close.

That seems very strange. Our life rafts have a survival bag attached filled with such goodies as sea sick tablets, fresh water, bailing bucket, day and night flares, a book on survival, a heliograph, some dry rations, I think there is fishing line, a canopy for the raft, first aid kit, protective blanket, and more. Part of our annual emergency procedures training involves sitting in the raft and playing with the various bits and pieces.

Perhaps the 737 rafts are minimum required equipment and the survival gear gets added later? Or are they slide rafts? Our aircraft (Avro RJ/Bae146) don’t come with rafts as a factory fit and they are only carried on specific overwater flights.

Here’s a list of required survival equipment under FAR Part 135:


That long list of “either” seems a bit odd. As I read it, a life raft is considered fully equipped if it has even one of those things, and if the airline is going to skimp and just barely meet regulations, that one thing is going to be something extremely lightweight like the police whistle.

I believe it is either an appropriately equipped survival kit or everything else listed. Our life rafts have everything in that list, otherwise it would have “OR” after each item.

Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

Thanks for that! I was rather wondering if there was anything in the rafts or if it was just “Well, hopefully you won’t be out here too long…”

This is statistically unlikely. The ocean is big.

That list is for extended overwater ops, if you were flying domestic continental US or Aus then you may have no raft at all or maybe slide rafts with no emergency equipment.

Doctor Strangelove?

Adrift, by Steven Callahan, is the true story of how the author’s sailboat sank around the Cape Verde islands, so he climbed aboard his life raft and drifted across the Atlantic. He lived on water from solar stills and raw fish he caught with the raft’s fishing kit, and got rescued in the Caribbean two and a half months later. It’s amazing what you can do if you have to.

Imagine trying to do that with 50 other people crammed into the raft.

But commercial airlines don’t fly all over the ocean, they fly specific, heavily traveled routes.

In the event of an airliner going down (and assuming people survive that), I would hope that between the search and rescue teams and the emergency locator beacon, a raft full of survivors wouldn’t be out there for very long.

Tom Hanks did ok but then again he had all those extra FedEx packages.

Is it possible there are different lists for planes cable of crossing oceans? Does the 737 have the range to cross the Atlantic. Or might there be individual 737s (or other models) that are certified to make oceanic crossings because they have more extensive survival gear, and others which aren’t so certified because they are only intended to fly over land or small bodies of water?

In retrospect, we may have turned to cannibalism too soon.

(with thanks to the old Onion).

Yes. Apparently in the film, as scripted, he says “Dallas,” but the movie was to be released shortly after Kennedy’s assassination and it was dubbed in at the last minute.