After an incredibly quiet first half of the year 2015 we have had a spate of jump plane accidents in the USA and elsewhere. This is not uncommon as this is the height of the skydiving season in many parts of the world. However, many long time experienced industry insiders are all raising an eyebrow over the string of accidents and incidents in the last four weeks alone.
- Two King Air 90s have had landing gear collapses. One after a reported engine fire and one after some electrical problem. Both pilots were either unable or did not know how much it takes to manually extend the gear to down and lock position.
- A C-182 in Moab, UT had an off airport landing presumably after fuel was unported from the pickup and the engine failed while approaching the intended airport of landing.
- A C-182 clipped trees in Washington while approaching the intended airport of landing and crashed.
- A C-205 had a forced landing on a busy highway after reaching a height of 4,500. No one made an emergency exit. Reportedly there were two tandems on board. No cause of the engine failure has been reported.
- C-208 with PT6-114 engine forced landed near Sebastian, FL. The -114 engine has had a history of catastrophic failure lately and the manufacturer has put out several bulletins about this.
- C-208 Blackhawk converted Caravan crashed in Dubai after a catastrophic engine failure at 2,100 feet above group. Reportedly the propeller did not feather and the descent rate was significant. Although the load was all experienced fun jumpers no one made an emergency exit after seeing parts fly by the door. The resulting forced landing was survivable and all occupants exited relatively unharmed. The aircraft was consumed by fire post impact.
- And early this year in March a TexasTubines converted C-208 to Supervan experienced a loss of power on a post maintenance flight to test the autopilot before being ferried to a new owner in Europe.
- A PAC-750 experienced an engine failure of it’s PT-6 at 250 above the ground and made a successful forced landing in grass with no aircraft damage or injuries.
- And on July 14 a Cessna 182 pilot jumped from his aircraft utilizing his emergency rig over farm country due to what has been reported as flaps not extending evenly and loss of aircraft control.
We have gone from a year where a little crowing was in order for the serious drop in the number of jump plane accidents to a year where the feeling is “what’s next?” Be alert. Be methodical. Know your emergency procedures and that your jumpers are briefed on when they should expect to stay seated in an emergency and when they can reasonably expect to go. The old adage of “just get me a 1000 feet and I’ll bail” seems to have been debunked in one fell swoop. This may still work with old Cessna 182, 205, 206 but Cessna 208 Caravans that lose the engine and the prop DOES NOT FEATHER you are coming down right where you ever happen to be. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen this happen in years past so you need to consider this in your planning for emergencies.
- Engine fails and prop feathers automatically or by pilot action you will have a flatter glide than you are used to and over shooting a runway becomes a concern. Several accidents in years past bore this out. Practice engine out procedures by using a zero thrust setting.
- All single engine aircraft should plan their climbing flight to be within gliding distance of a runway or suitable off field landing area. You must play the “if it fails here where do I go? And if I’m here where do I go?” There should not be any doubt. However, a failure of prop feathering or failure to manually feather by pilot action will shorten your decision making time. So make this scenario engrained in your thinking. You may only have seconds to react!
Stay safe out there. And if you haven’t already, join our FaceBook group for continued discussion or leave a comment here.