When it comes to skydiving, there are many links in the chain required to ensure a safe, fast, and efficient operation. From your first meeting with Manifest to the person that packs your parachute, to your instructor, and yes, of course, your pilot.
At larger operations, you may not know who your pilot actually is, simply because he/she has been sitting up front all day. They are generally the first to arrive to preflight your aircraft and get things ready to roll, and most likely the last to leave as they secure your aircraft for the night, ensuring it will be ready to go come sunrise.
There are a few things that you as a jumper can do to lighten the pilot's workload and help keep them turning and burning all day for you.
One of the biggest things you can do is to be ready when it’s your turn to go. If you’re a tandem student or a newer jumper, that simply means sticking close to your instructor or coach and following their lead. If you’re an experienced jumper, it means having all your gear on and ready to go before you board the plane. At CSC, we ask that everyone be geared up and in the loading area on the 5 minute call.
Another huge help is keeping your eyes open for anything that might seem unusual. You have a view of the aircraft that they may not, and it’s never a bad idea to point something out. Just pick the right time because as you can imagine, your pilot is probably pretty busy once you’re in the air!
Another way to help your pilot is to have a plan before you board, and then execute that plan when the time comes. Know your exit order, know your time between groups and then go have fun!
Believe it or not, helping your pilot doesn’t end once you’ve left the aircraft… Ensuring safe traffic patterns to avoid flight paths with the aircraft, landing in designated landing areas, and pointing out any changes in wind or weather you may have noticed so that the pilots can adjust their plan accordingly are all important things you can do to help the operation.
If you jump at a drop zone and you don’t know who your pilot is, take the time to meet them, shake their hand, and maybe even offer them a beer after sunset load. We are all one big community and it’s awesome when jumpers take the time to get to know the one who’s giving them a ride to altitude!