I began skydiving in the mid-1970s at the age of 19. I should say I survived skydiving in the mid-1970s. It was a dangerous sport then, with annual fatalities in the U.S. hovering around 50 each year. Fortunately, new technology and training methods have enhanced the safety of the sport and annual fatalities have decreased to about 16 per year, with far more skydivers making far more jumps than in the mid-1970s.
Our jump planes in the mid-1970s were single-engine Cessnas, and twin-radial Beech 18s and Douglas DC-3s. Though Cessna 182s are still the most numerous jump plane (and seemingly will always be), turbines have replaced radials with Cessna Caravans, PAC 750XLs, Beechcraft King Airs, de Havilland Twin Otters, and Shorts Skyvans now among the jump fleet. With the more reliable turbine engines and improved pilot training, the jump plane accident rate has improved, too.
In 1988, with a fresh commercial pilot certificate, I began flying jumpers in a Cessna 182 at a Pennsylvania DZ. For two seasons, I flew every flyable weekend, sunup to sundown, logging nearly 300 jump hours. In 1996, I bought a 1957 Cessna 182A with only 1900 hours total time, and had it converted to a jump plane. I leased it to DZs and used it at my own seasonal DZ for three years. I sold it in August 2001, the month before 9/11. Altogether I’ve flown 773 jump flights, logging nearly 400 jump hours among my nearly 1,000 hours as a PIC.
In 1996, I took as job as Director of Government Relations and Group Membership with the U.S. Parachute Association. I was skydiving’s point-of-contact with the FAA and the go-between for all drop zones. I was also responsible for tracking and improving jump plane safety. Eight months after I started, I handled my first fatal jump plane accident, a Cessna 205. I’ll never forget it. The DZ owner, who I had been working with on an airport access issue, was killed in the crash, along with the pilot and four others. The cause? The brand-new jump pilot stalled the airplane on jump run and it spun in. From that point on, my mantra became “Every skydiver deserves a trained, professional pilot.”
Having retired from USPA in December 2020, I started Jumpers Away to dedicate my time to providing skydiving with trained, professional pilots.
Over the years, Ed Scott has authored several articles about jump planes, jump piloting, and the related FARs. Here are links to several articles in USPA's Parachutist magazine.
May ‘00, pg 38:
“CESSNA 182: 50 YEARS OF FLYING SKYDIVERS”
April ‘06, pg 40:
“GETTING UP THERE: JUMP PLANES THROUGH THE YEARS: PAC 750XL”
Aug ‘07, pg 42:
“GETTING UP THERE: BEECH 18”
Oct ‘07, pg 28:
“GETTING UP THERE: KING AIR”
Dec ‘07, pg 44:
“GETTING UP THERE: CESSNA 206”
Feb ‘08, pg 50:
“GETTING UP THERE: JUNKERS JU-52”
July ‘08, pg 36: