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Jump Pilot Interview? Some Things to Ask

In the past couple of weeks, several DZs have indicated their need for Cessna 182 jump pilots. Various aviation segments, from the airlines to charter, photogrammetry to pipeline patrol, are in hiring mode, causing jump pilots who have accumulated flight time to move on, creating vacancies at DZs. So, keep submitting those resumes. Here are some things you need to ask when get an interview.

  • Is the airplane airworthy and on a 100-hour inspection interval by an FAA-certified mechanic? (The answer needs to be “yes.”)

  • What is the DZ’s season? Do they close in late fall, like many in the north, or do they operate year-round?

  • Is it at a municipal airport or a private airport? Are the runway length and condition, and approaches, adequate for a fully loaded 182?

  • What days of the week are they open? Weekends only (Sat-Sun)? Long weekends (Fri-Sun)? Weekends and some weekdays? Are the weekdays full days or partial days, e.g., noon to 5 pm?

  • What is the pay rate? $15 to $20 per load ($20 per load is becoming the norm)? Or different rates depending on whether the load is tandem students or experienced skydivers? Is there a daily minimum or “show up” fee so you get some compensation in case the weather interferes? (Those can range from $50 to $100, which may cover the first few loads, after which a per-load rates kicks back in.)

  • Are you paid at the end of each day? Each week? Bi-monthly or monthly? Do you receive cash or a paycheck? Are you considered an employee, with taxes withheld? Or are you considered a contractor; in which case you should establish your own LLC?

  • Are there additional responsibilities for the job? Are you required to wash or ferry the airplane? Or perform other DZ duties when not flying?

  • Are living accommodations provided or subsidized? If so, is it indeed livable or instead, is it more like a cot in a hangar or a shared bunkhouse without hot water and no kitchen?

  • Finally, is the DZ owner willing to reimburse your travel expense to arrive onsite for the initial greeting and, hopefully, orientation flights? Including the return trip should things not work out?

Try to speak to any other pilots or DZs staff to get a feel for their level of motivation and satisfaction.

Carefully weigh the answers. There is rarely a gold-plated job with the best of all options. But if the aircraft and the operation are safe and the compensation and activity level seem adequate for you, you’ll be on your way to a steady, paid flying job and an ever-growing logbook. Good luck!

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