Brooks CJ, Gibbs PN, Jenkins JL, McLeod S. Desensitizing a pilot with a phobic response to required helicopter underwater escape training. Aviat Space Environ Med 2007; 78:618–623.
Introduction: A systematic desensitization program designed to help aircrew who have a phobic anxiety of the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) has been developed. Case Presentation: A student pilot presented with a severe phobic anxiety of the HUET course—a result of a being trapped underwater on a marine survival training course. A treatment team was assembled and concluded his phobia could be treated by a systematic desensitization method. An exposure matrix of graded difficulty of in/underwater escapes was performed over 2 d. The student reported that his confidence increased and anxiety reduced as he became accustomed to being strapped into a seat in the escape trainer while wearing increasingly difficult levels of equipment which increased the difficulty of escape, such as taking away nasal protection and goggles. At the end of Day 1, he was able to jettison the exit door/hatch while inverted underwater with a facemask and dressed in a simple coverall. At the end of Day 2, without nasal protection, inverted underwater, wearing full military equipment, he was able to cross the cabin, jettison the exit door, and successfully escape. Discussion: A systematic desensitization treatment program can be used to successfully treat aircrew for phobia of the helicopter underwater escape trainer.
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