Numerous things have been going on in the world over DiverDriving and the website DiverDriver.com. Lots of discussion has been occurring on the FaceBook group. If you’re not a member join up and participate in the discussion.
Back in the late 1990s there was no specific publicly available list of jump plane accidents in the USA. Knowledge of these accidents was passed on as verbal history, folklore and legend. And often facts were lost, never known or made up. Because of this there was no way to gauge how skydiving operations compared to any other part of aviation in terms of safety. That’s when this website began to scour the NTSB website for key words to construct a viewable list that could be accessed by anyone. People could do their own directed research. However, it quickly became apparent that some jump plane accident reports lacked key terms that would identify it as being associated with skydiving. Tracking the FAA daily intake in conjunction with future NTSB reports was the best way at the time to track them. This effort was to give new and experienced operators (pilots and DZOs) a way to learn from other’s mistakes. The original list was broken down by year and date of accident. After the complete redo of the website DiverDriver.com the list is searchable by year, aircraft type and type of accident cause or contributing factor.
The NTSB, beginning in 2016, has changed how accident reports are posted at NTSB Search. First, we now have a specific Skydiving Operations subset available for review. But it’s not without its limitations. Not every jump plane accident gets tagged with the attribute initially. This can be due to lack of knowledge that the subset exists or unaware at the time of the accident that skydiving ops were involved on that flight. Through contacts these omissions can be corrected in later updates but take time. That’s why the list at DiverDriver.com Accidents is still the most comprehensive list of jump plane accidents anywhere. Bookmark the link and stay informed.
Frustratingly, the NTSB has also started putting a bare minimum of information in the Preliminary Report. All that is posted is an html link to a date, location, aircraft type and level of accident (fatal, non-fatal). Zero description of anything that may have occurred is listed. This has limited the amount of timely information DiverDriver.com has been able to put out. And a review of past accidents reveals that three jump plane accidents that occurred over two years ago only have a Preliminary Report. There is no way to compel the NTSB wrap up a report and issue a Final Cause faster than they want to. However, overtures are being made to press the importance and usefulness to the skydiving community that report completion is vital to improving safety.
More recently final reports have been issued on some jump plane accidents. A Cessna 208 Supervan overran its runway of intended landing resulting in substantial damage at Baldwin, WI on July 21, 2016. The NTSB determined that the grass runway was unsuitable in length for landing with a full load of jumpers still on board. Which brings up a question. If a jump plane cannot return to the runway it departed (assuming it’s the only runway available at the departure airport) how could it possibly abort a takeoff successfully if ANY problem arises at liftoff speed? While legal to the FARs for Part 91 it’s hard to believe operators who invest in expensive aircraft and upgrades would then place them into conditions that the only option if you can’t fly after rotation speed is achieved is to crash off the end of the runway. Think about it. As a jump pilot you should be THOROUGHLY informed as the performance of the aircraft in takeoff AND landing with a full load. Can you accelerate and stop on the runway if at rotation speed you find the aircraft won’t fly? Examples could be: control lock still installed, bird/animal strike, flaps set incorrectly or failed, runway condition does not allow further acceleration (sod, dirt, gravel).
Next we have yet another old Cessna 182A running out of gas over the top of its departure airport and crashing short of the runway. First, STOP RUNNING OUT OF GAS!!! It’s the most basic of tasks a pilot must manage starting as a Student Pilot. You have to have enough gas for your flight. Second, this year (2017) alone there have been eight jump plane accidents in skydiving ops, ferrying and maintenance flights. FOUR of those accidents involve the pilot running out of gas. HALF!!! Half of the accidents this year are from running out of gas. That is remarkable considering all but one of these pilots hold a Commercial Pilot’s License or higher. This is a scourge in our industry. And it can only be fixed by YOU the jump pilot. You have to manage yourself and how you conduct each flight. Let’s stop running out of gas.
Blue Skies and soft landings.