A King Air is NOT a Jump Plane!

This post will be in English due to the nature of its major addresses: pilots and skydivers which should be able to understand English where ever they live.

Dieser Beitrag ist auf Englisch, da er sich primär an Springer und (Absetz-)Piloten richtet. Diese Zielgruppe sollte aufgrund der Internationalität der Luftfahrt des Englischen mächtig sein. Für alle anderen verweise ich auf „Deepl Translate“ oder „google translate“.


The video below has gone viral and a lot of pilots commented to it. Although I am a pilot as well I want to show it more from the skydiver’s side.

Click on the picture leads to YouTube video

I know the post title will be dissented by some – it has so since I had started telling my opinion years ago in the community like a broken record.

The jump plane in the picture below is one I should/would/could have been in. Decades ago, when fate brought me two days late to a dropzone (DZ) in Houston. At a time in life where I jumped off everything that flies, usually did not look at the pilot who flew the plane, and just tried to be on each and every load… Engine failure after takeoff as far as I remember…

Just to remind me that sometimes luck does not come at first sight…
(Picture shows a Queen Air, basically the same as a King Air but with piston engines)
(c) Kleisny

A King Air is a beautiful, fast, neat plane from a pilot’s view. No doubt. From a jumper’s view the only positive aspects are that it climbs fast, exceptionally fast for a fully loaded jump plane and that the number of jumpers per full load is usually reasonable even for a smaller dropzone. The maximum number of jumpers (usually 14) is less than in a Twin Otter/Skyvan und more than in a Pilatus Porter, or Cessna 206 Turbo. (I do not give exact numbers because they can vary according to country and specific aircraft registration.)

As a jumper you cannot stand upright in a King Air, not even with my 1 meter and 60 centimetres. That slows down the way to the tiny slim exit side door when rushing on exit and it also provides a lot of possibilities to inadvertently pull handles or other things from the jump gear that should be left alone. Not to mention GoPros on helmets that even enlarge the height of a jumper.

The fast (climb) speed also means a super fast skydiving exit speed. So, if all or most jumpers are supposed to be in one and the same formation in freefall, the people in the plane on exit have to be very fast running with bent knees in the plane to follow the ones already hanging in or from the door. That of course leads to a big momentum in the slim hull of the plane that the pilot has to counteract. To slow down the plane on one engine on exit not only helps the skydivers but also the pilot in handling the plane. Maybe initially. Of course, it also produces more and other possible dangerous situations…

These are the reasons why I keep telling that

A King Air ist NOT a jump plane although at least in the US it is used widely as such.

„Fun“ Fact:
At major events (we call them boogies) you must be able as a skydiver above a certain experience level to handle each position on exit and such be able to jump off every plane that is available at that boogie. The plane for a group of skydivers may be switched to a different plane in a matter of minutes before the jump. From a huge back door (Skyvan) for a comfortable exit for the whole group to a large side door (Twin Otter) or even to a smaller plane with a tiny side door like a King Air…

On major boogies in the US like the WFFC in Quincy (5,700 skydivers) there was only one exemption even for the most experienced group (RIP Buddha…): When switched to a King Air we were asked if we would still be on that jump. Quite an exemption. There have been too many accidents – often for some or all jumpers/pilots with deadly encounters – with a King Air.

A King Air just is no jump plane.

Get that.

Please.

Finally.

To the general situation of a jump plane stall on exit: In my long skydiving life with 2000+ jumps I did encounter several stalls as a jumper when in bigger formations. Usually at least one jumper gets hurt. E.g. when a Skyvan stalls it initially „falls/slides“ backwards right into the exited jumpers. The buffeting before the stall (immanent stall) is not being noticed by the general jumper on exit. At that time there is too much going on he/she has to be aware of. Only when the rocking plane lifts him/her up from the ramp and throws the human towards the door above (yeah, that hurts) he/she will recognise that there is something unusual going on…

It has been known now since a long time, that in a Skyvan you have to separate a group of 10 or more jumpers on exit to keep the center of gravity in the right place. In my skydiving beginnings this was not common knowledge and I remember lots of frustrating talks to „very experienced“ LO’s (load organisers) who did not understand the impact of the center of gravity for an airplane flight.

Since years now I have a look and a big smile for the pilot each time I enter a plane as a jumper. The arrogance of jumpers who see their pilots like bus drivers and cannot even tell afterwards who flew the plane is still widely common.


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