You know the drill, you'll need "500 hours, 25 in a 182 and 25 jump flights." Can you get a jump pilot job with under 500 hours? Yes. Read on.
Most of those aspiring to be a Cessna 182 jump pilot learn quickly about flight-time requirements set by the several jump plane insurers. To be added to a drop zone’s jump plane insurance policy, the pilot must have at least 500 hours of total flight time, 25 hours in make & model, and 25 jump flights. Can you find a job flying a 182 jump plane with less than 500 hours? Yes, there are three ways that can be done.
Believe it or not, some DZs don’t insure their jump planes. Their thinking is that the insurance premiums saved over 10 years can pay for a replacement airplane if the jump plane is totaled beyond year 10. No insurance means no pilot minimums. But there are potential pitfalls. The DZ owner is flying “uncovered,” meaning in the event of an accident and injuries, there is no insurance to pay medical bills nor to defend a lawsuit. Without insurance, the plaintiffs might decide to also target the pilot in a lawsuit, especially one who has assets.
If a DZ owner wants to hire a pilot who doesn’t meet the minimums, a jump plane insurer may agree to add a lower-time pilot if the DZ owner agrees to pay an additional premium of a few hundred to several hundred dollars. The DZ owner knows he’s taking a chance though; there is no premium refund if the pilot doesn’t work out.
Acquiring professional jump pilot training is another way a pilot with under 500 hours can be added to a jump plane policy. The majority of 182 jump planes are insured through Falcon Insurance Agency. Falcon’s underwriter, U.S. Specialty, has reviewed and approved Jumpers Away’s training program and has agreed “to favorably consider” adding a Jumpers Away graduate with under 500 hours to an insurance policy. Why the “favorably consider” language? Two reasons. First, state insurance regulators don’t allow insurers to promise or insinuate coverage. Second, because insurance decisions are always risk-based, every pilot completes and submits a pilot history form to an insurer. Things like a previous incident or accident, FAA enforcement action, a previous medical certificate denial, or previous insurance denial can cause an insurer to deny placing a pilot on a jump plane policy, no matter how many hours they have or how well they are trained.
To date, Jumpers Away has trained five aspiring jump pilots. Four quickly found jump pilot jobs and were placed on jump plane insurance policies—three of them had under 300 hours total time, one had under 400 hours total time. (The fifth, with under 300 hours, has current offers to start a job in early spring.) There are no guarantees in aviation (except that you WILL land), but training with Jumpers Away can help jump-start a jump pilot career.