Annually, the U.S. Parachute Association designates the second Saturday of March as “Safety Day,” a day for everyone at the DZ to refresh themselves on the rules, regs and emergency procedures prior to the start of the spring season of skydiving. Safety Day also provides an opportunity for jump pilots to review and standardize the DZ’s flight procedures. Here are a few things to consider.
Emergency Landings. Undoubtedly, you’ve identified some fields or other cleared areas within 45 degrees either side of the departure end of every runway for possible use as an emergency landing area. Have you ever gone over and actually scouted the areas on the ground? You might find a powerline you hadn’t seen, or a hidden ditch, or find that the ground is too soft. Better to know now that on a short, silent final with no hope of a go-around.
Climbs and Descents. Based on nearby airways or charted approaches and departures for nearby airports, some DZs have established specific climb and descent tracks or areas for their jump planes. Doing so can deconflict airspace and ease the workload for both pilots and air traffic controllers. Specific and separate climb and descent corridors or areas come in especially handy when two or more jump planes are flying at the same time. Always climbing and descending in separate areas minimizes the chances of a collision or near-hit with another jump plane.
Verify your fuel stick. Even when they work (and they often don’t) Cessna fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate. Every 182 jump plane should have its own fuel stick which should be used often to verify enough fuel for the next flight, plus 30 minutes’ reserve. When is the last time your Cessna’s fuel stick was checked and calibrated? Fuel sticks have been known to migrate from one jump plane to the next, but Cessna 182 fuel tanks were not created equal and your stick may not be calibrated for your airplane. Note these differences in the various models:
· The ’56 model had 60 gallons total fuel with 55 gallons useable.
· With the ’57 model, the total increased to 65 gallons with 55 gallons useable.
· With the ’62 model, the total was still 65 gallons but useable fuel increased to 60. Cessna also offered an optional 84 gallons total with 79 useable.
· With the ’74 model, capacities were reduced to 61 gallons total with 56 useable, and 80 gallons total with 75 useable.
· With the ’79 model, fuel bladders were replaced with integral tanks holding 92 gallons total with 88 gallons useable.
Fire extinguisher and knife on board. Static-line jumps are not that prevalent anymore but when they were, every plane had a sharp knife within reach of the jumpmaster and the pilot to use when the static-line exit produced a jumper-in-tow. Today there are still situations where an inadvertent deployment on the step can result in a pilot chute or canopy line snagging on the step or some other part of the airplane. A sharp knife may offer the only solution to that emergency. Inflight fires are rare, but they can happen. Having a fire extinguisher under the pilot’s seat can increase the odds of landing safely if flames erupt at 10,000 feet.
Gear checks save lives. Every skydiver, tandem instructors included, should receive a gear check before boarding, and should conduct a handles check before exit. Three times last season 182 pilots I know caught a tandem instructor in the door with a tandem drogue out of its pouch. Due to a 182’s confined cabin and the maneuvers skydivers must make to ready themselves in the door, pilots should always watch the door on jump run and be prepared to collar a skydiver who is trying to exit with a pilot chute or rig already deployed.