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'Survival: Down and Back'

As pilot Don Karpen and aerial photographer Fred Stockwell soared past Crater Lake in a Cessna 172 Jan. 23, Karpen casually pointed out a flat part of the geography that could serve as a landing strip in the event of an emergency.

Little did the pair know, they would soon face an emergency when the plane's engine began to fail at an altitude of 9,500 feet at a point between Crater Lake and Mount Thielsen.

During 48 years of aviation, including a one-year stint as an Air Force combat pilot during the Vietnam War, Karpen had learned a few flight precautions.

He had consciously selected a path over land bisected with highways and roads rather than taking the more scenic flight over a vast wilderness. As a result, he was able to make an emergency landing in a clearing near Highway 97 south of the nearest town of Chemult.

"I was happy I had elected that route instead of flying over forestland because it had a landing area," Karpen said. "Otherwise, we would have been dead."

Karpen will share that safety tip and others during a free seminar at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Bear Creek Park Amphitheater. Two physicians, a member of the Jackson County Search and Rescue Team and others will also speak at the seminar, sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Titled "Survival: Down and Back," the seminar will cover safety precautions such as keeping in contact with an air traffic controller throughout flight and packing an emergency kit, recommended safety gear, treating injuries, signaling help and surviving in wilderness and severe weather conditions.

Door prizes, mostly safety equipment, and handouts on available training, a survival checklist and Web sites will be given out to attendees.

"This is not a new subject, but it is something people haven't taken seriously here," Karpen said. "We are flying in a mountainous area and flying over wilderness, even to go to the beach."

There are four public airports and 18 private airports in Jackson County that generate air traffic, according to the Oregon Aviation Department.

The subject matter is particularly relevant in light of recent news events, including the death of James Kim after he and his family were stranded in the snow in the Bear Camp Road area, said pilot Roger Williams.

"The things we'll be talking about could apply to anyone going through the back country, whether by airplane, motorcycle, foot or automobile," Williams said.

Karpen, who works as a flight instructor, said pilots are often unfamiliar or rusty on emergency procedures.

"I tell students when they show up, 'Plan on crashing,'" he said.

Many neglect to bring a safety kit with them on flights, which include first-aid items, rations and mirrors to signal attention.

"It's $200 for a kit that would help two people survive for two weeks," Karpen said. "It's a cheap price to survive."

On the Web: www.faasafety.gov.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.