Why 182 Jump Pilots Wear Parachutes
I’m often asked which FAR requires a jump pilot to wear a parachute. The answer is…none. FAR 91.307 only requires parachutes (with lots of caveats) when the aircraft intentionally exceeds a 60-degree bank or an attitude of 30 degrees. So why do so many Cessna 182 jump pilots wear parachutes? The requirement comes within the FAA approval for a Cessna jump door or door-removal modification. The STC or FAA field approval contains operating/condition limitations that apply with the modification, such as a limitation on airspeed or bank angle. Usually included is a requirement that the pilot or all occupants wear an approved parachute when the door is opened. Note the “usually.” I’ve seen old FAA modification approvals for 182s that don’t include the parachute requirement, which I believe was an error on the part of the FAA.
What’s an approved parachute? That’s also described in 91.307. It’s any parachute made under an FAA type certificate or technical standard order (TSO), or a designated military parachute. Nearly all pilot emergency rigs and sport skydiving rigs are made and approved under a TSO. Note that 91.307 also says that an approved parachute can’t even be carried on board unless it has been packed within the preceding 180 days by an appropriately rated FAA rigger. All parachutes have an accompanying packing data card with a record of the last repack date and the rigger who packed it.
Is there really a need for a jump pilot to wear an emergency parachute? There are jump pilots who will answer with an emphatic “yes,” because a parachute saved their lives when a jump run went wrong. When you have an open door and skydivers climbing out and hanging off the step and strut, pilot chutes and parachutes can inadvertently deploy, sometimes destroying an airplane’s flyability and pegging the “Oh s!#t” meter in an instant. In another scenario, a formation load of two Cessnas full of skydivers famously collided over Superior, Wisconsin in 2013. Incredibly, all survived, including the jump pilot who lost a wing in the ensuing fireball and had to use his emergency parachute. (The other pilot deadsticked to a safe landing.) Many of the skydivers were wearing GoPros, so you can view many angles of the collision here: AMAZING Skydivers Land Safely After Plane Crash EXTENDED CUT - YouTube.
Why don’t most twin and turbine jump pilots wear parachutes? Those aircraft modification approvals don’t require it, for reasons I can’t find. Should pilots of larger jump planes wear a parachute anyway? A certain Cessna Caravan jump pilot would say yes. At 14,000 feet, he had skydivers positioning in the door when a reserve parachute deployed over the tail, snapping off the empennage. The airplane went into a vertical dive estimated at 16,000 feet per minute. After ensuring all skydivers were clear, the pilot made his way to the jump door with great difficulty, deploying his pilot emergency rig at about 1,000 feet above the ground. You can read the Australian Transport Safety Bureau report of the 2001 accident here: VH-MMV Skydiving Accident (atsb.gov.au).
Pilots, if you are going to wear a parachute, it is imperative to get some in-depth training. Jumpers Away offers a one-day pilot bailout course; a tandem jump is optional but encouraged. See Bailout Course | Jumpers Away.