History of the Flight

On April 23, 2005, about 0915 eastern daylight time, a de Havilland DHC-6, N24HV, registered to Vertical Air Inc. and operated by Skydive Deland, Inc., as a Title 14 CFR Part 91 parachute operation, collided with a cinematographer parachutist during the downwind leg for landing on runway 23at the Deland Municipal-Sidney H Taylor Field Airport, Deland, Florida. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and the flight was coordinated with the FAA Daytona Beach Approach Control. The commercial-rated pilot reported no injuries and the cinematographer parachutist received fatal injuries. The airplane incurred substantial damage to the left wing. The flight originated from Deland Municipal Airport, earlier that day, about 0855 EDT.

The pilot stated that after the 14 jumpers left the airplane, at 13,500 feet msl, southwest of the airport; he started his descent to the northeast. He approached the airport from the northeast and at 6,000 feet msl, he communicated through Deland's Unicom frequency to report his intentions to other airplane traffic. He entered the traffic pattern at pattern altitude and airspeed. He saw some parachutes on the ground and some in the air. He saw a tandem jumper toward the southwest and believed he had accounted for all jumpers. He over flew the airport and made a left turn to enter the downwind leg for runway 23. He elect runway 23 due to the city's noise abatement restrictions in the area south of the airport. As he turned left, he saw a flash of colors, felt an impact and drag from the left wing. He got the airplane on the ground as soon as possible.

According to one ground witnesses, the parachutist was descending and was about 600 feet above ground level (agl) when the left wing of the airplane collided with him. Another witness heard an unusual muffled sound and saw the airplane flying at an altitude of 1,070 feet agl. The witness indicated the parachutist's canopy deflated during impact and the airplane was heading in a south-southeast direction. He then saw the canopy re-inflate and the parachutist make a controlled descent between the hangars and runway before landing. After the collision the airplane continued downwind and landed on runway 23 without further incidents. A section of the airplane's left wing front top spar cap and spar web, outboard of the lift strut attaching point, incurred substantial damage.

One of the master tandem jumpers on the jump stated that the winds favored the landing zone area next to the left side of runway 30, about 1,000 feet from the approach end of runway 30. The pilot of the airplane did not give a briefing on which runway or approach he was going to execute. The norm is for the jumpers to avoid crossing runways below 1,000 feet and to stay away about 300 feet from the runways, and the pilot to avoid jumpers at all times. Due to the amount of jumps that are performed per day there is no briefing before each flight on what approach pilots will use to land at the airport. It all depends on the individual pilot on how quick they return to the airport and how tight of a downwind, base and final approach is executed.

Radar data provided by the FAA Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center was reviewed by the NTSB Operational Factors Division, Washington, DC. The review indicated that the accident airplane was about 1,300 feet means sea level (msl) when it was approaching runway 5/23 from the northwest. The airplane flew over runway 23, near mid field, about 1,100 feet msl and was between 900 to 800 feet msl during the left turn entering the downwind for runway 23. The radar data continued capturing the airplane as it approached runway 23 with an attitude of 300 feet msl before the last radar contact. The published traffic pattern attitude for the airport is 1,000 agl for propeller airplanes.

Video equipment that was carried by the cinematographer was retained by NTSB and sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Division, Washington, DC, for analysis. The video captured several minutes before and after the collision. The video begins with a view of inside the cabin during the climb. All of the skydivers, including the three tandem pairs, jump from the airplane. The cinematographer skydiver jumps with the last tandem at 2 minutes and 18 seconds into the recording. The tandem chute deploys at 3 minutes and 7 seconds followed by the cinematographer skydiver's chute deploying 13 seconds later. A sound similar to an altitude alerter is heard at approximately 3 minutes and 34 seconds into the recording. As the cinematographer skydiver descends, he removes the helmet-mounted camera and looks into the view making a few remarks about the jump. He places the camera back to its original position and continues to capture audio and video. The sky is overcast above them and visibility is good. The view pans to the right and captures three skydivers with chutes deployed at an altitude above him. At approximately 4 minutes and 54 seconds, a sound similar to an airplane engine can be heard at an increasing level for 5 seconds. At 4 minutes and 59 seconds, the view pans slightly left and a sound similar to an impact is heard. The view becomes blurry and pans rapidly. At 5 minutes and 2 seconds, three frames capture what appears to be an aircraft in close proximity banking away and to the right of the camera's view. The view continues to pan rapidly for about 6 seconds showing shots of the ground, sky, and parachute. The camera stabilizes and records until impact with the ground at 5 minutes and 46 seconds. The recording skips to another group preparing to jump inside the airplane after the ground impact. The following groups occurred before the accident in time but appear after the accident on tape.

Medical and Pathological information

Thomas R. Beaver, M.D., Chief Medical Examiner of Volusia and Seminole Counties Medical Examiner's Office performed postmortem examinations of the cinematographer parachutist. The cause of death was complications of blunt force trauma to the extremities and neck.

Test and Research

The pilot stated during an interview with NTSB that he has been flying jumps since 1966 and has made over 2,000 drops. He as been with Skydive Deland since 1998 and was hired due to his experience in skydiving and is a skydiver himself. He is one of the six pilots that fly jump airplanes for Skydive Deland. The pilots for the jump airplane are independent contractor and are compensated by the number of individual jumpers that are released per airplane. The pilot of the jump airplane looks out for other airplanes and is vigilant in see and avoid. The skydivers look out for other skydivers, the speed of parachutes, vertical movements, and horizontal separation. One rule is for the skydivers not to cross runways during their descent near the airport. The jumps are conducted from assigned altitudes of 5,000 feet, 10,500 feet, or 13,500 feet. It takes about the 6 minutes to get from jump release altitude of 13,500 feet to the ground. There is no briefing with the jumpers before the flight with respect to which runway is going to be use and what type of approach will be executed. The pilots are aware of the landing zones on the airport. There are no standard operating procedures for return descents away from the runways. After the drops, the descent is done to the east or northeast to keep away from the airways, inside Daytona's airspace and to the south, there is Daytona's localizer. The procedures that he followed are in the FAA Advisory Circular 90.66A and what the city of Deland put out for noise abatement procedures.

A representative of the aircraft operator was asked by NTSB what is the protocol to enter the traffic pattern per Skydive Deland? He stated that verbal guidance is given to them (pilots) to follow the FAA rules and it up to their discretion. There are no written protocols. The only thing is the noise abatement procedures. Additionally, the NTSB requested a list of the pilots that fly the jump flights for Skydive Deland. The operator did not provide a list of pilots that are authorized to conducted jump flight for them.

The acting airport manager stated that there is no "Letter of Agreement" for airport operations between Skydive Deland and the City of Deland, only the lease for the property agreement. The City Commission for Deland conducted a study on noise abatement for the airport and approved a voluntary noise abatement procedure. The procedure outlines traffic patterns, limits to altitudes, and areas to avoid for noise abatement. It denotes to avoid noise sensitive areas south of the airport.

Several residences of the Deland airport provided to the NTSB correspondences between themselves and the City of Deland regarding concerns with safety issues at the Deland airport. The majority of the concerns were the operational practices of Skydive Deland, particularly the approaches and landings at the airport.

FAA Advisory Circular 90.66A, Recommended Standard Traffic Pattern and Practices for Aeronautical Operation at the Airports without Operating Control Towers, which the Deland airport is, outlines for parachute operations; "Pilots and parachutist should both be aware of the limited flight performance of the parachutes and take steps to avoid any potential conflicts between aircraft and parachute operations." The United States Parachute Association, Skydiving Aircraft Operation Manual, suggest that diligence should be exercised in watching for other air traffic. Turns during descent should be kept to a minimum.

A Letter of Agreement between Skydive Deland, FAA Daytona Beach Approach, and FAA Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center, defines skydiving procedures and is supplemental to the Title 14 CFR Part 105. The Letter of Agreement defines the boundary of the jump zone and aircraft operating procedures. The jump zone below 4,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) is the airspace within 1.5 nautical miles from the center of Deland airport. Above 4,000 feet MSL the jump zone is the airspace with 2.0 nautical miles from the airport center.

Additional Information

The aircraft wreckage was released by NTSB to the registered aircraft owner on April 25, 2005. The cinematograph equipment retained by NTSB for further examination was returned to the Deland Police Department on October 7, 2005.

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