Every year, the U.S. Parachute Association designates the second Saturday of March as “Safety Day,” a day for skydivers and skydive instructors to practice emergency procedures and review good practices, and to inspect their gear to ensure all is in readiness for the coming skydiving season. (Many drop zones designate an alternate day.) Jump pilots should actively participate as well, in three ways.
First, review the aircraft logbooks and paperwork. Are the ELT and battery in date? When was the last annual and 100-hour inspection, and when are the next ones due? Perform an unhurried, thorough preflight inspection; now is the time to address discrepancies before things get busy. Check the security of the jump door and step. Inspect the cabin for sharp edges and snag points and fix them before jumpers inadvertently find them. Is your pilot emergency rig in date (packed within 180 days)?
Second, even if you didn’t have a winter layoff or slow-down, pilots should take the opportunity for recurrent training. Practice slow flight and perform a stall series. Review the checklists and memorize the emergency checklist. Simulate an engine failure to landing to relearn that close-in traffic pattern that jump pilots need to fly. Practice your immediate, full right rudder for those inadvertent parachute deployments. (That hasn’t happened to you, yet? It will.) Go walk the nearby emergency landing areas you plan to use in the event of an engine failure on takeoff; note the terrain and look for powerlines and other obstacles. Get with the other pilots to review and update the DZ’s flight operations manual. What, your DZ doesn’t have one? You can download and customize a flight ops manual from the USPA website here: GM_FlightOpsHandbook.doc (live.com)
Finally, offer a Safety Day presentation to the DZ and jumpers. Emphasize seat belt/restraint use on takeoff and the altitude for release. Go over the weight and balance limitations of the airplane. Share your aircraft emergency procedures, especially your plan for an interrupted takeoff. Review the cloud clearance and visibility requirements and the importance of everyone onboard engaging in “see and avoid” during climb and especially on jump run, when jumpers should scan for traffic below.
The goal of Safety Day is for jumpers and pilots alike to be practiced, proficient, and on top of their game, ready for any emergency the coming skydiving season may throw at you. Take part.