Dilbert Dunker Inventor Visits Whiting Field

Story Number: NNS091209-10Release Date: 12/9/2009 4:53:00 PM
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By Ensign Joanna Clark, Naval Air Station Whiting Field Public Affairs

WHITING FIELD, Fla. (NNS) -- The inventor of a device dubbed the "Dilbert Dunker, credited with possibly saving thousands of aviators' lives, visted Whiting Field Dec. 3 to see one of only four dunkers created.

Wilfred Kaneb, who currently resides in Ontario, Canada, began designing and building the dunker in 1943. He was tasked with the duty of creating a mechanism to simulate engine failure at takeoff from a carrier, as many pilots who crashed in this scenario during World War II did not survive.

"The Army colonel said somebody has got to teach them what it is like to be drowning," Kaneb said. "It took us between six months to a year to design and build it."

On display at the base's atrium with other pieces of naval aviation history, this "Dilbert Dunker" was used for water survival training at both Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola and NAS Whidbey Island.

The dunker is a piece of history to many of aviators at NAS Whiting Field, including Commanding Officer, Capt. Pete Hall and Executive Officer Cmdr. Lynne Chapman. More than 8,000 aviators have trained on the Dilbert Dunker.

"We have a little bit of our history in here," Chapman said. "I mean, I rode in here."

"If you think of all the people who have gone through this one, all the astronauts, the people who went to the moon... They all had to go through Pensacola, through this one," Hall said.

Four of these devices surfaced in the fleet, all handmade and tested by Kaneb and a small team of engineers. Because there was no assembly line to build these machines, they had to be individually tested, and they didn't always work on the first try.

To test the devices, the flight candidate would be strapped into a mock cockpit, place his hands on the throttle and stick, and be lifted in a cart a few meters out of the water. The cart would then come crashing into the water, flip upside down, and the candidate would then - with "water in every sinus" according to Kaneb - have to orient himself and escape from the pilot seat.

"We tested a lot of airplanes [Dilbert Dunkers]," Kaneb said. "I liked it, though, because it was worth it."

"I know it gave me the confidence to get out of the water," Hall said.

For more news from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, visit www.navy.mil/local/naswf/.

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