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General Aviation Safety
Parachute jump (or skydiving) operations, which the Federal Aviation Administration defines as the activities performed for the purpose of or in support of the descent parachutists (or skydivers) who jump from aircraft, are a segment of U.S. general aviation that transports parachutists on at least 2. 16 to 3 million jumps annually, according to data compiled by the United States Parachute Association (USPA). Most parachute operations flights are operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91 and are typically revenue operations; parachute jump operators provide the flights as part of their services to parachutists who pay to go skydiving, or parachutists pay dues for membership in parachuting clubs. The risks of parachuting are generally perceived to involve the acts of jumping from the aircraft, deploying the parachute, and landing; parachutists are aware of and manage these risks. However, the National Transportation Safety Board’s special investigation of the safety of parachute jump operations found that traveling on parachute operations flights can also present risks. Since 1980, 32 accidents involving parachute operations aircraft have killed 172 people, most of whom were parachutists.
TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Require parachute jump operators to develop initial and recurrent pilot training programs that address, at a minimum, operation- and aircraft-specific weight and balance calculations, preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures, and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Unacceptable Action
SULLIVAN, MO, United States
Crash of Skydive Quantum Leap de Havilland DHC-6-100, N203E
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
FAA (Closed - Unacceptable Action)
Jump Operations, Pre-flight, Procedures, Procedures: Pre-Flight, Training and Education
Safety Recommendation History
Our concern remains that requirements for pilots of parachute operations are not consistent with those for other revenue-based operations pilots, such as the requirements for pilots flying on-demand operations under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. However, because the FAA indicated that its actions in response to these recommendations are complete, Safety Recommendations A-08-65 and -66 are classified CLOSED – UNACCEPTABLE ACTION.
CC# 201100098: - From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: As stated in our March 12, 2009 letter to the Board, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to find that our current regulations and revisions to Advisory Circular (AC) 105-20, Sport Parachuting, meet the intent of these safety recommendations. We decline to require specialized training and testing for pilots of aircraft conducting parachuting operations for the following reasons: 1. The overall and fatal accident rates for parachute jump operations, as discussed in the report, is about half of that for the rest of GA. 2. Of the 32 accidents cited in the report, only 3 were attributed to excessive weight and balance, accounting for less than 10 percent of the total. The FAA and USPA are working diligently to educate jump aircraft pilots and drop zone operators on how to make the weight and balance computations simpler and faster; the effect would be to reduce the pilot workload so the pilot does not have to skip the calculations to keep a reasonable schedule. A similar process has worked exceptionally well with air tour operators and pilots with similar schedules and loads. Additionally, we are educating operators on other critical issues that are not mentioned in the report, such as tail strikes. 3. These safety recommendations imply that the pilots did not know how to properly preflight plan or compute the weight and balance of the aircraft being flown. There is no evidence of the pilots not having these skills; only that they were either not done or negative outcomes were ignored. In either case, this is not in compliance with 14 CFR § 91.103. Preflight instructions, including weight and balance computations, are listed in the airplane flight manual that is required to be aboard the aircraft per 14 CFR § 91. 9. 4. According to the 2006 Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Nall Report, GA accidents accounted for more than 500 fatalities per year, including sport parachuting jump aircraft. In a comparison to the rest of GA, sport parachuting jump aircraft accidents accounted for less than 0.5 percent of those fatalities over the 28 years covered by the report. AC 105-20 is expected to be published by April 30, 2011. This AC will bring a higher awareness of the typical and avoidable accidents that involve jump aircraft. The revised AC will not only make the jump pilots and drop zone operators more aware, but also the parachutists who board their aircraft. I will provide the Board with a copy of AC 105-20 when it is published. At that time, I will consider Safety Recommendations A-08-65 and -66 closed.
The FAA indicated that parachute operations are regulated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules; Part 105, Parachute Operations; and Part 61, Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors. The FAA also indicated that current regulations already require initial and recurrent pilot training, as well as training and testing in the knowledge areas of preflight planning, weight and balance calculations, and aircraft emergency procedures. The NTSB notes that the FAA and the USPA are working together to update Advisory Circular (AC) 105-2, Sport Parachute Jumping, with guidance on pilot training, currency, and testing programs; aircraft airworthiness; egress information for both pilots and parachutists; rigger record-keeping guidance; seat belt restraint information; and airport layout information. The NTSB points out that the pilots in nearly all of the 32 accidents discussed in the SIR, most of whom were commercial or airline transport pilots, were deficient in such basic airmanship tasks as performing adequate preflight inspections of airplanes, complying with airplane weight and balance limitations, maintaining airspeed during powered flight, and executing emergency procedures. These pilots, whose flight experience in parachute operations ranged from one flight to hundreds of flights, were unprepared to provide the parachutists with the basic level of safety that passengers should be able to expect from professional, for-hire, or parachuting-club flight operations. The identified deficiencies could have been mitigated had initial and recurrent pilot training programs been implemented by operators to address such issues as preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures, and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown. The NTSB does not concur that the current regulations that apply to parachute jump operators are sufficient because they are not aircraft-specific as recommended. The NTSB emphasizes that requirements for pilots of parachute operations are not consistent with those for other revenue operations pilots, such as for pilots who fly 14 CFR Part 135 on-demand operations. Parachute operations pilots must comply with only the flight-review requirements of Section 61.56, which specify that pilots must, within the preceding 2 years, have received a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training that covers a review of Part 91 rules and the maneuvers and procedures necessary for the pilot to demonstrate that he or she can safely exercise the privileges of the pilot certificate. Parachute jump operators are not required to provide their pilots with initial and recurrent pilot training on the skills and procedures specific to parachute operations flights (for example, frequent takeoffs, slow-speed maneuvering while the parachutists exit, and subsequent high-speed, low-power descents). Such recurrent training and examinations would determine pilot competence in practical skills and techniques and would also serve as a reminder to pilots of their duty to operate in a safe manner. The NTSB recognizes that parachute jump operations include a wide variety of aircraft and operators; however, the NTSB points out that the FAA has successfully implemented pilot training, examination, and/or flight check requirements for a variety of operations. Although the NTSB is encouraged by the proposed revisions to AC 105-2, in order to meet the intent of Safety Recommendation A-08-65, the FAA would need to establish a requirement for parachute jump operators to develop initial and recurrent pilot training programs that address, at a minimum, preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures, and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown. To meet the intent of Safety Recommendation A-08-66, the FAA would need to establish a requirement for initial and recurrent pilot testing programs for parachute jump operations pilots that address, at a minimum, operation- and aircraft-specific weight and balance calculation, preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures, and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown, as well as competency flight checks to determine pilot competence in practical skills and techniques in each type of aircraft. Pending the FAA’s making these changes, these recommendations are classified OPEN -- UNACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
Letter Mail Controlled 3/26/2009 10:07:31 AM MC# 2090175: - From Lynne A. Osmus, Acting Administrator: The Federal Aviation Administration notes that in addition to part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules, parachute operations are also regulated under the provision of part 105, Parachute Operations. Part 91 provides general operating requirements for parachute operators, which include preflight action, airspace and air traffic communication requirements, and aircraft equipment and certificate requirements. Part 91.307 specifically addresses parachute types and packing requirements, flight maneuver limitations, and requires compliance with part 105. Part 105 further describes parachute operating rules and parachute equipment and packing requirements. Additionally, there are existing regulatory requirements for initial and recurrent pilot training in part 61, Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors, that are applicable. Our current regulations require training and testing in the knowledge areas of preflight planning, weight and balance calculations, and aircraft emergency procedures.
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