Most first time skydivers probably may not have considered the vehicle that carries them to their jump altitude. They, just like so many other experienced jumpers, probably “meet” it just at the moment they are all geared up. But as a matter of fact, the aircraft a drop zone uses as has a key effect on your overall experience.
Indeed, it is a good thing to think about what kind of skydiving plane you’re going to be in, as it has a direct relationship to the general awesomeness of your jump. Nonetheless, here are some of the most common and best skydiving aircrafts to consider.
Types of Aircraft Used for Skydiving
1. Cessna 182 – Skylane
This skydiving plan was introduced in 1956 and built in the United States, France and Argentina. This aircraft is by far the most common jump plane in the world. The average C182 is powered by the Continental 230hp O – 470 and can take 4 skydivers to 10,000ft in about 20 mins.
2. Kodiak Quest
Quest is the newest manufacturer of skydive aircraft. Comparable to the first Caravan (C208A) but with no engine upgrades available yet. Skydivers love its large door and high wing; however drop zones don’t like its high price of almost $2 million and not a lot of used surplus available.
3. Cessna 208A/ 208B
Note that the Caravan is renowned as the most common and popular single engine turbine powered jump plane in the world.
The Caravan aka “Mini Van” climbs fair, 208B Grand Caravan (675hp) climbs well and the Black Hawk (850hp) and Texas Turbines (850hp) conversions climb great with up to 21 skydivers. What they all have in common and what the skydivers love is the high wing and very large exit door.
4. Pilatus PC – 6
This aircraft has remained a common and popular tail dragger jump plane in Europe, especially the turbine equipped version.
However, it is not so much in the United States, with only a few drop zones operating it. It can carry 9 skydivers to altitude fast or slow depending on if its turbine or piston powered. Skydivers love its high wings and large sliding exit door
5. Beech 90 Series – King Air
Have it in mind that the fastest climbing jump planes in the world are King Airs. They are also the 2nd most common twin engine jump planes in North America. The average King Air with its PT6A – 20 engines, can take 15 skydivers to 13,000ft in about 10 mins and burn about 22 US gallons.
The engine upgrades available are the – 27, – 28 and – 135, some with horsepower ratings as high as 750. It is not liked by all skydivers due to its low wing and small door.
6. Douglas DC – 3
Right from when this aircraft first dropped paratroopers on D – Day it has been loved by every pilot that flew her and every parachutist that jumped out of her.
At one time there were quite a few of these beloved birds flying skydivers. Note that although it has two large 1,200hp radial piston engines, it was never known as a fast climber. Even at almost 80 years old there are still a couple drop zones flying it, including Skydive Arizona.
7. CASA C – 212
First introduced in 1974 and still in production the CASA (Construcciones Aeronauticas SA) C – 212 is a well known twin turbine powered medium STOL transport aircraft. This skydiving aircraft climbs fast and carries 28 skydivers and has large exit ramp. It can be found at various drop zones around the world including Skydive Paraclete XP in North Carolina.
8. Technoavia SMG – 92 – Turbo Finist
This turbine powered, fast climbing Russian tail dragger is loved by skydivers due to its high wing, large sliding exit door and climbing speed. This jump plane will carry 10 skydivers on one bench. Features large outside step and inside and outside handrails.
9. Dornier Do – 28 G92
Well known as a fast climbing, tail dragging, and Slovakian derivative of the Skyservant. This aircraft is fitted with two Walter M601 – D2 turbine engines.
Skydivers love its exit door, which is slightly larger than the door on a Caravan. Note that pilots in the industry love its great centre of gravity characteristics and climbing speed. This bird will haul 15 skydivers to altitude 4 times in one hour.
10. GippsAero GA8 – Airvan
Note that this is an Australian built, high wing, piston powered, miniature Caravan. It has a 300 hp Lycoming IO – 540 engine and can hold up to 8 skydivers. This jump plane is found mostly in Australia and Europe.
11. Pacific Aerospace PAC P – 750 XSTOL
Instead of a tuned up Grand Caravan, this aircraft remains the fastest climbing single engine jump plane in the world. Powered by the PT6A – 34, it carries 17 skydivers to 13,000ft in 15 minutes. However, complaints from skydivers include the wing spar running across the floor of the cabin that they have to step over, its low wing and its tapered smaller exit door compared to that of the Caravan.
12. Cessna 205/206 Skywagon, Stationair
This Skydiving aircraft is quite a popular single engine piston powered jump plane, especially the turbo version. A step up from its sister the C182, it is faster and roomier and the 206 “U” models have a nice sized rear exit door. There are even a few that are converted to turbine power by the Soloy Corporation.
13. Shorts SC – 7 – Skyvan
Note that Skyvan is a favourite of most skydivers because of its 6 ft tall rear exit ramp. It can haul 23 skydivers up to altitude in a fair amount of time. This is a rare jump plane, with only 4 drop zones in the US and a couple in Europe that own and still fly it. You will mostly see it at large boogies or competitions.
14. De Havilland Canada DHC – 6 – Twin Otter
This Skydiving aircraft has been around since 1966 and is the most common and popular twin engine jump ship in the world. In 2006, Viking Air bought the tooling and Type Certificates and started manufacturing them again. “We CAN rebuild her!”
Note that this aircraft is commonly powered by the PT6A – 27; it can haul 23 happy skydivers to 13,000ft in about 13 mins. Skydivers love its high wings and large exit door.
15. GAF N.22/N.24 – Nomad
Made in Australia, this Skydiving aircraft is flown at drop zones in New Zealand, the UK, and only sparsely in the United States. It is a high wing STOL aircraft powered by two 420hp Allison 250 – B17C turboprop engines. It quickly carries 13 skydivers to altitude.
Even though helicopters, Stearmans, C – 130s and even DC – 9s are occasionally used to fly skydivers, this list above only include the current and most common aircraft used for skydiving worldwide.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an Airplane for Skydiving
Have you ever imagined why different drop zones show different altitudes in their marketing materials? Some drop zones advertise heights as breathtaking as 18,000 feet, while so many only bring jumpers up to 10,000. Almost without exception, these numbers are directly proportional to the plane being used.
Note that smaller drop zones use the most common skydiving aircraft in the world: the venerable Cessna 182. The C-182 is a little workhorse.
But as a single – engine plane, it is a little underpowered, so it can only realistically go up to 10,000 feet before it starts taking an unsustainable amount of time and fuel to go any higher. Turbine aircraft, meanwhile, go up to 13,500 for breakfast, happily reaching up to 18,000 when it is needed.
Agreeably, even though most drop zones take jumpers up to the same 13,500 – foot industry standard altitude, it can take very different time frames to get there. This also depends on the kind of plane and the altitude gain, and this can take anything from seven to twenty – something minutes.
However, the less time you spend getting to exit altitude, the less time you will spend being nervous. In addition, most single-engine planes sit just three jumpers and the pilot. Everybody in there is packed in sardine – style.
Then when it is time to go, you have to drag out your limbs from under and around everybody else’s, then bend over to the door like an ancient Japanese monk. All these don’t help a jumper’s confidence, and it all boils down to the plane used.