A plane is a plane is a plane, right?
If you’re a first-time tandem skydiver, you probably haven’t given much thought to the vehicle that carries you to your jump altitude. You’ll probably “meet” it just at the moment you’re geared up and heading nervously to its waiting steps.
We’re here to tell you that it’s 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. Here’s what every tandem skydiver should know about skydiving aircraft, in a nutshell, to be armed for good smart shopping.
The Good Old Cessna 182
The Cessna 182 has been the workhorse of the skydiving community since the early days of the sport of skydiving–and, incredibly, plenty of those first planes are still in the air! The 182 has been in production since Elvis Presley released his first hit (1956, if you’re curious).
This jump plane can carry a pilot, four jumpers and climbs to 10,000 feet, and putters along with the reliable O-470 engine. It doesn’t go very high, and it doesn’t go very fast. Usually, it takes about half an hour for a 182 to make its way to exit altitude–and the four-person seating situation on the floor in there is, um, cozy. Exit looks like a two-human version of a dog scruffling its posterior along a carpet, at the end of which the tandem pair kinda rolls out the door. It’s undignified, but it’s still fun.*
The raging popularity of Cessna aircraft remains unsurprising. The aircraft are relatively inexpensive to purchase and maintain, compared to their bigger cousins, so the dropzone’s profit margins are better. That works well for the beloved mom-and-pop operations that form the backbone of America’s skydiving landscape, but the plane situation changes significantly when you get to a bigger dropzone (like ours).
SC-7 Skyvan Skydiving Aircraft
Ah, the mighty Skyvan.
The Skyvan has earned plenty of affectionate nicknames since its introduction to dropzone life: “the shed,” “the schoolbus” and “the beast” among them. This boxy brute was built rugged, meant to haul bulky loads out of short, unimproved airstrips deep in the bush–and now, it often hauls bulky loads of 22 skydivers plus a pilot up to 18,000’ (usually 12,500’) into the air. The Skyvan is significantly bigger than the 182–18’7” long, 6’6” high and 6’6” wide. Our favorite feature, however, is the exit door: a rear exit cargo door that cranks open so you can leap right out the back, just like in the movies.
It’s comfier than a Cessna, too: Skydivers sit on benches inside, like civilized people, to wait for the green light to go. (Pinkies out, everyone.) The Skyvan’s signature roar and slow-ish–but not Cessna-slow–ascent can sometimes annoy fussy lifer skydivers, but everyone generally agrees that the Skyvan’s appeal far outweighs those two little nitpicks.
At Perris, we love our Skyvans. When it goes up on the manifest list, you can see the tail wags starting up all over the place.
DeHavilland Twin Otter
Then, of course, there’s our daily driver, and what we consider to be the best skydiving aircraft of all time–the Twin Otter. This beauty of an airplane carries one pilot and up to 22 skydivers up to our standard 12,500’ exit altitude lickity-split.
Probably the most versatile skydiving plane in the turbine world, the Twin Otter, a fixed gear aircraft that boasts predictable flying characteristics and engine redundancy (i.e., if an engine goes out, there’s another engine to keep the plane flying), is one of the safest options in the air. Ours is kitted out to be extra-fast. Oh! And it’s also one of the comfiest, with interior benches, plenty of windows and a nice, big door for exit. (One that you don’t have to carpet-skootch up to, natch.)
The moral of the story, of course, is that everybody loves otters–so much–for excellent reason.
Ready for a world-class experience skydiving Los Angeles? Skydive Perris offers first-time and experienced skydivers a wide range of capabilities with our fleet of 7 twin aircraft (3 Twin Otters and 4 Skyvans). Learn more about our skydiving planes or come on out! We’ll introduce you.
*Because all skydiving is fun.
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