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Improving Jump Pilot Training

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Here is a summary of my presentation on “Improving Jump Pilot Safety” this week at the 2023 Parachute Industry Association Symposium. I thank PIA for their request to speak on this topic.

As the graph shows, the number of fatal jump aircraft accidents has declined substantially since the bad ol’ days prior to 2000. Still, the industry is experiencing an average of about one fatal accident each season. We also experience an average of 10 non-fatal accidents each year. The accident investigations reveal the same common mistakes, showing either inadequate pilot training, or careless flying. Here are the most common causes or causal factors in jump plane accidents.

  • Inadequate preflight inspection

  • Not following checklists

  • Pilot is unfamiliar with POH or AFM

  • Fuel exhaustion

  • Exceeding MTOW and CG

  • Carburetor ice

  • Engine failure / failure to maintain airspeed / loss of control

  • Not flying within glide of the runway

  • Hard landing

Fortunately, better training and awareness can prevent most accidents or at least reduce the severity of the emergency landing. Here are items a Cessna 182 jump pilot should employ on every flight.

  • With a fuel stick, visually inspect for adequate fuel for the planned number of flights, plus 30 minutes reserve

  • Memorize and run the before takeoff checklist flow, EVERY TIME

  • Frequently check fuel selector and engine controls, which can be bumped by jumpers

  • Check frequently for carburetor ice and use carburetor heat liberally

  • With the door open, watch the jumper climb-out and be ready for an inadvertent parachute deployment

  • Climb so you can always glide to the runway if you suffer engine loss

  • Always fly a tight landing pattern, so you can always glide to the runway

  • Adhere to speed limitations and procedures for door opening, closing, latching, and locking

  • Prevent stalls but be ready to recognize and recover from an imminent stall

Skydivers deserve a safe, smooth, professional flight to jump altitude. Be that jump pilot.

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