Jump Plane Crashes Emphasize Emergency Procedures
A spate of Cessna Caravan jump plane crashes this year has brought attention to jump pilot training and jump operation procedures. All three Caravans crashed after dropping jumpers and descending back to the airport. Two occurred at the same DZ near Oceanside, CA. The first was on February 24 and resulted in two pilot injuries; the second happened on June 3 and resulted in one pilot killed and one injured. In each case, the airplane didn’t make the runway but impacted terrain near the runway end. On June 4 a Caravan overshot the runway while landing after dropping jumpers at a DZ near Ellington, CT. The lone pilot was not injured. None of the accident investigations are complete and any attempt to describe causes would be speculation.
Jump pilots are taught to fly in a manner that allows the airplane to glide back to the airport in the event of an engine failure, which should always be possible except for the brief window sometime after rotation and upon reaching 1,000 feet or more, depending on the airplane. But the corollary to the “always within gliding distance” rule is that the pilot must be prepared to get the airplane onto, then stopped on, the runway. Jump pilots should continuously review emergency procedures and be prepared for engine failure.