This appeared in the USPA Professional in June 2013. It bears repeating.
A search of jump-plane-related accidents on the National Transportation Safety Board’s website at NTSB.gov reveals 10 accidents related to fuel problems over the past five years (May 2008-May2013), with eight of those accidents occurring in the past three years. Nine of the accidents were due to fuel exhaustion, which means the pilot completely failed to plan for the amount of fuel needed to perform the flight, account for unusable fuel and adhere to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.151, which sets fuel requirements for flight in visual conditions.
Eight of the fuel exhaustion accidents involved Cessna 182s; all were 1956-1959 models. There is no definitive data on how many 182s of each model are flying skydivers, but it is interesting to note the concentration of model years.
So what is unique about these model years? They have a higher unusable fuel amount compared to later model years. From the 182’s introduction in 1956 to 1960, the model includes a 10-gallon unusable fuel total. That is five gallons each side! Contributing to confusion is that those models’ old Pilot Operating Handbooks give a vague statement that usable fuel is greater in straight-and-level flight. Some pilots may consider this permission to plan flights with less fuel. If the unusable fuel is 10 gallons and it takes eight gallons to fly to 10,000 feet, you must also add in 30 minutes worth of reserve fuel at normal cruise power. New jump pilots must be trained to deal with older aircraft designs.
Submitted by Chris Schindler.