The Cessna 182 has been and will continue to be one of skydiving's most
used and trusted workhorses. Although some newer models of 182's are being used for
skydiving, most of them are probably from the 1950's and 1960's vintage. They are
extremely reliable and safe airplanes, which answers to the needs of most
small drop zones. In many dropzones, the door may be removed
altogether for jump operations; otherwise, the door needs to be modified so
that it opens upwards, for smooth, fast, and easy exits. This aircraft is
wonderful for static lines, clear and pulls, nice crew loads, and solos.
Tandems are a little crowded. Formation loads are also a blast in this one! Two
of these aircraft in formation will bring you plenty of kick-ass 8-ways.
Good 4-ways can be launched (no camera, though), but some formations are difficult to put in the door. A good friend just recently pointed out that it is possible to get FAA approval for 5 skydivers on a C-182. However, since practical ceiling is limited, working time for the skydive is reduced. Exit speeds are lower, so launches are critical.
The Cessna 195 is a strong, fast flying Cessna. Unlike the Cessna 182, which
is driven by horizontally opposed cylinders, the 195 uses a radial cylinder
configuration. This large engine allows it to fly 5 skydivers to 12,500 in
about 20 minutes. It is particularly useful for 4-ways that want a camera
slot, something that the 182 cannot provide. Ride to altitude is crowded, and
exits are very limited due to a narrow, though pretty tall door.
I jumped this old 1958 Stinson in Peru right after I finished my student jump course in the U.S. I am going to have to skip all specifications on this aircraft, since it has rarely been used for any kind of jumping, except when you are really horny for adrenalin, and there is nothing else to jump. We knew the pilot, and he gave us a ride to its maximum ceiling of 6,500 feet with 3 skydivers. It was a total rush because it was a completely different aircraft to jump from at the time, in an unfamiliar drop zone.
The naked jump into the nudist colony that you might have read about in my skydiving
page was performed from this aircraft. This aircraft can carry up to 12 jumpers in
relatively good comfort to 12,500 in 20 minutes. Two huge Pratt radial engines help
propel this aircraft at high speeds. This aircraft was made famous with pictures of up
to 12 skydivers hanging over the fuselage, wings and tail. It has some slight problems
with loadings aft of the center of gravity, limiting the amount of people that you can
safely put near the door without stalling the aircraft. Eight ways are great out of this
one. The slipstream from the engines is quite brisk, and the noise is pretty high.
Just like the Cessna 182 is the workhorse of american dropzones, its counterpart in
Europe is probably the Pilatus Porter. This aircraft is a marvel. It can take anywhere
between 8-10 skydivers. Retrofitted porters with supercharged engines make them one of
the best airplanes available for skydiving. When they talk about a "right door aircraft"
they are probably talking about the classic Porter. This airplane has been used at most
of the European Skydiving Cups, as well as many world meets. The golden knights have their
own Porter for training. You might also recognize this airplane, which has appeared in most
skydiving movies, including "From Wings Came Flight", "Drop Zone", and "Terminal Velocity."
Exits are a blast in this aircraft, making use of the widest, low profile door available,
you can launch 8-ways in one piece, play around with the strut by climbing all the way out
away from the aircraft. This aircraft is a STOL (Short Take Off and Landing). You will be
amazed when you see it the first time, how quickly it takes off and in how short a distance
it can land. This machine is practically unstallable, and pilots love it because they can
put them almost wherever they want.
This fast twin from Beechcraft (now Raytheon) will fly 14 skydivers in a smooth, quiet ride.
West Tennessee's Mullins' Super King Air is prepared to offer high altitude jumps from 23,000
feet. Ride to altitude takes less than 15 minutes, and oxygen is supplied. A jump from this
altitude usually gives a freefall of slightly over 2 minutes, opening at 2,000 ft. Due to
a narrow profile door, some 4-way exits are challenging. Larger formations require single-file
exits with limited floaters, and separation is quite large due to typically high exit speeds.
This aircraft from the same manufacturer as the King Air, is quite a bit more sluggish. The
models that are still being jumped are a little bit older. Jump characteristics, however, are
quite similar to those of the King Air. Capacity generally is limited to 2 less, and the door is
exactly the same.
Although this Douglas aircraft is currently retired from all commercial aircraft fleets, it is still
being used in many dropzones, but primarily as a backup airplane. When skydiving was in its beginnings,
back in the 70's and 80's, this aircraft was used quite a lot. As skydiving grew, the requirement
for faster, more efficient aircraft developed, such as the twin otters. The DC-3 is what skydiving is
really all about: long floater bars, and long line-ups. This means lots of floaters, superfloaters,
and divers. For those of you out there not familiar with the terms above, consider the following:
Since not all skydivers can leave the aircraft at the same time, there will be vertical separation
and horizontal separation between jumpers, particularly between the first and the last one out. A
10-second exit for 36 people (considered good for a DC-3) could mean a separation of up to a quarter
mile in freeefall!!! To be more efficient and avoid this, skydivers usually have the first few people out "float" UP
towards the formation, and the "divers" accelerate DOWN to the base, therefore meeting in the least
time possible. This is REAL SKYDIVING. Noisy but so dependable, the 3 is one of the most enjoyable aircraft to jump from.
Too bad there's not any more of them out there. They continue to be extremely valuable due to their
capacity, particularly on busy boogie days, or for special large formation events.
This single engine aircraft made by Cessna, is a great turbine alternative to the Twin Otter. Although
somewhat slower in climb and smaller than a Twin Otter, the door is practically identical, just a tad
narrower. Due to the slipstream being right on the fuselage, it usually requires baffles on the leading
edge of the door to be FAA approved for jumping. There are some limitations on aft loading, and number
of floaters that can be put outside the aircraft, but it is a great aircraft.
The Twin Otter has by far become one of the most desirable aircraft for modern skydiving, particularly
for DZ operations in which there are a lot of 4-way, 8-way, and 20-way teams. Its high capacity,
safe comfortable ride, and possibly one of the best doors available for jumping, make it hard to beat.
It is not strange to find some tight 20-way formations putting 8 to 10 people as floaters and superfloaters,
and then 3 rows of 3 near the back. This yields very fast exits, where you can get everybody outin about 3-4 seconds.
Made in England, by Shorts, this tailgate aircraft is quite weird. When you see it the first time, you have
to scratch your head and wonder how it could possibly fly. It is basically a large shoebox with wings. Its
double rudder system at the back and the boxy shape is unmistakeable. This aircraft is quite noisy, and has
limitations with aft loading. For large formations, many times it is necessary to put no more than 8 people
at the edge of the tailgate. The rest of the formation needs to follow farther behind, since the aircraft is
prone to stalling at higher loadings. Exit speeds are generally somewhat faster than others, but can be
slowed down to normal exit speeds for competition if necessary.
Yet another aircraft by DeHavilland (and you're going to start to notice that these military aircraft types
are the most successful in skydiving) is the Caribou. This tailgate can carry up to 40 skydivers. That's about it.
It is a very noisy aircraft, and it is very slow to climb. However, it has impressive STOL characteristics.
It has an absolutely fantastic tailgate. When it opens during jump run, it seems like the whole world opens
underneath you. It is really fun to exit, since it can literally spit large "chunks" of skydivers at a time.
This airplane is of Spanish origin. In a lot of ways, it resembles the Skyvan, except it is better built. The ride
is less noisy, and it has almost no aft CG problems. This tailgate is becoming increasingly popular in large DZ's lately.
You may recognize this aircraft from Norman Kent's movie "From Wings Came Flight", where some of the best skydivers (The
Dream Team) got together in the Caribbean for some really killer jumps. There are some supercharged engines that make these aircraft ideal. What
could possibly be better than a super tailgate that can take you to 15,000 feet in 15 minutes?
OK. There's no need to describe one of the most well-known commercial aircraft, the 727. Jumping out of this aircraft
is different from anything else, for many different reasons. First of all, it can easily climb to 10,000 feet in less
than 5 minutes. For jump run, the pilot slows the aircraft down to about 130 mph, and to do this, must extend flaps and
lower the landing gear. The aft exit door is completely removed. I was on the first 727 skydiver load at the World Freefall
Convention a few years ago. Jumping out of it is lick getting shot out of a tennis ball barrel. The separation between
skydivers is just unreal. Another weird thing. On other airplanes, you leave the aircraft,
only to accelerate towards terminal speed. From a jet, you are already beyond your terminal velocity, so you actually slow
down on exit. You can hear the difference in the pitch of the wind. Go try it, you'll have a blast.
Here's another weird exit. Just about any skydiver will come to a point when they will be so horny to jump out of anything,
particularly from a "different" airplane. Well, an ultralight barely
qualifies as a flying machine, but believe it or not, it is perfectly jumpable. It's a little crowded, and a little slow,
but a 2-seater with good power should be able to take you up to 3,000 in less than 10 or 15 minutes. This particular jump
I made from 2,000 feet. Exit is complicated, since there's a whole bunch of support wires that you have to be careful about.
Also, the Beaver is a push prop, so you also have to make sure to stay away from that two. In this jump, you just have to plan
everything correctly, and be careful. I won't ever forget this experience. During exit, there is almost no
forward speed, so it's similar to the balloon exit, except there's quite a bit more noise. But it does take a few seconds
to build up enough speed to throw your pilot chute and get a nice parachute over your head.
Jumping out of a balloon is like nothing else you will ever experience. To put into perspective: During a normal
jump from an aircraft, one is becomes used to the noise and rumble of the engines, as well as the air rushing past
the fuselage as you exit. Since the aircraft is already travelling at more than 80% of the speed of your final
terminal velocity, the acceleration is gradual, virtually unnoticeable. In a balloon, all of this changes. You
jump from a relatively stationary object. It is dead silent. You climb on top of the cage, and as you leap out,
you feel no air! You feel the acceleration, and your airpseed builds up. Suddenly, you can feel the increasing
brushing of the air against you, and you are in terminal again, just as in a normal jump. From there on, the rest
of the skydive is the same, but God, those first few seconds off the baloon are UNREAL!! It is a beautiful experience
and a wonderful sensation. Anybody that hasn't done it should.
And to think that skydivers in Finland have a boogie in this aircraft all the time...At least when it's not winter, anyway. This
twin russian military aircraft delivers a capacity of up to 54 skydivers, and fast climbs with the roar of its massive, 2800+ horsepower engines. I
want to jump this tailgate really bad. It's larger than a Caribou, but somewhat smaller than a C-130, it's perfect.
You will probably recognize this airplane, it performs flawlessly for the U.S. Navy around the world. This 4-engine monster
can easily carry 100 jumpers. It is somewhat small, but who cares, this airplane is all about capacity. I just want to be the
last one out, start at the front of the aircraft, and run through the galley, then exit out the tailgate, which is larger than
most garage doors. Too bad the U.S. armed forces don't lend us these anymore. In the 80's, they used to be jumped quite a bit.
It is hard these days to find one that can be jumped by civilians.
I have no idea how big this thing is, but it looks huge. Judging from the 4 huge turboprops and the tailgate, I would assume
that it probably resembles the C-130 here in the United States. Like I told you before, skydivers can no longer look at airplanes
the traditional way. They first look at where the door is, and whether it's jumpable, then they look at the capacity, and that's it.
If it can fly, it's cool.
I guarantee you probably have no idea how big this thing is. I had a chance to walk inside one of them at an airshow in Daytona Beach.
The C-5 Galaxy can carry up to 3 full-size Apache helicopters inside. It's not an airplane, it's a flying cavern! No idea how many
could fit, although there's probably not enough people with that much money to get that thing off the ground and fly it for one pass!
We're not talking 4 large turboprops, we're talking 4 jet engines, with enough pounds of thrust to haul just about anything. Again, this aircraft belongs strictly to the military, and chances are that it will never be available for jumping. But this is an
awesome dream to have, anyway.
By now we are in dreamland, so why not take it all the way? The ultimate dream is the space shuttle. Just imagine, you come back from
a space mission, you break through the earth's atmosphere. As you pass through 20,000 feet, there could be a hatch on the bay doors, and
you could eject from the shuttle. Of course, the speed would be absolutely unbearable, or not? We don't have to talk too much about the
possibility of this one, it is just safe to say that there are serious limitations due to obviously governing physical laws and federal
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