From the Pilot: Plane Etiquette

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I recently sat down with our pilot, Dave, to better understand what the pilots are expecting of us, and to get some tips and things you can do to make everyone’s life a little safer and a little easier.

I asked Dave, "What basic things can jumpers do to make the pilot’s life easier?”. He said it’s really as simple as being in the loading area on time, knowing your exit order, knowing what aircraft to get on, and most importantly, seatbelt arrangements for weight and balance. We don’t want to be doing wheelies! If the load is light, space yourselves out evenly.

“In that regard, is it ok if I don’t fasten or even share a seatbelt because there are so few or so many people on board?”

Absolutely not! A seatbelt per individual is mandatory upon boarding, while taxing, during takeoff and landing (if riding down) and up to 1,500 feet after takeoff. 

“So after 1,500 feet we can remove our belts and get the door open on hot days?" 

Dave noted that at CSC, we have a 2,000 foot minimum for the door. Also, the door is only to be opened after pilot chute checks have been done, and the all clear (thumbs up) is given by everyone on the load. CSC has a policy that the door can be opened only on days when the temperature is over 80 degrees on the ground.

“When is it ok to communicate with the pilot?” 

Dave mentioned that while technically they need a sterile cockpit(no communication with jumpers) during taxi, takeoff, and landing, any safety hazards may be passed up to the person next to the pilot, and that person can relay the info when appropriate. Do not attempt to get the pilot's attention during takeoff to tell him you’re doing a high pull!

“Speaking of high pull, do we need to tell you directly if we’re doing a special jump like high pull or hop and pop, or will manifest handle that for us?”

Manifest will generally let the pilots know, Dave said, but we’re all human, things can slip through the cracks, so it doesn’t hurt to give the pilot a quick heads up so we’re all on the same page.

“Can I ask for a go around if I can’t see the DZ?”

Generally, if we’re jumping, we have good visibility but those midwestern clouds can roll in fast sometimes. Communicate with another (preferably more experienced) jumper on the load to get another set of eyes if you’re having trouble. Don’t burn the whole plane and get out first at 2 miles past. We absolutely can do a go around if we think a couple extra minutes will make the difference

“What about the dreaded aircraft emergency? How will we know what to do?”

It’s important for everyone to remember to stay quiet and calm. Communication is absolutely essential in situations like these. The pilot will talk to the jumpers so they know what to do, and be sure everyone is on the same page, whether that means putting seat belts back on and landing or calmly making emergency exits. 

“Is there anything else we should know?”

Please don’t stand under the wings while fueling. Be mindful of the aircraft you’re boarding and where the props are, as it may be an aircraft you’re unfamiliar with. Pay attention to exit separation whatever it may be that day. 6 seconds means exit 6 seconds after the last group, not get in the door after 6 seconds. 

And there you have it! If you keep these simple things in mind while jumping at CSC you should have a great ride up and be highly regarded in our pilots eyes!



Ryan started skydiving in 2009 when a friend randomly asked him to tag along. It changed his life forever and he began working for the dropzone shortly after. Along his journey he worked at many dropzones across the country in many different roles such as Ground Crew, Manifest, Packing and Video Editing. He became a Tandem Instructor and AFF Instructor in 2018 and has completed 2,000 skydives. Ryan is currently a Safety and Training Advisor and Full Stack Developer at Chicagoland Skydiving Center. He loves coding during the week and watching landings on the weekend to educate and help foster a safe community. When he's not working you'll find him playing piano, recording music or hanging out with friends.