First Commercial Skydiving Center in the United States
Published: May 2, 2018
If you're new to this, you're probably making who-cares faces right now. After all: Why do you need to know anything about skydiving jump planes? You're just going to be getting out of it. Well, we're here to tell you that jump planes do matter. As a matter of fact, the aircraft a dropzone uses to get you up into the sky has a huge bearing on your overall tandem skydiving experience. Here's how the skydiving jump plane affects the three central metrics of any given skydive you can do.
Curious why different dropzones advertise different altitudes? Some dropzones advertise jumps from 13,000, 15,000, and even 18,000 feet; others only carry their up to 10,000. Pretty much without exception, that advertised altitude pings right back to the plane they're using.
If you're squaring up to a 10,000-foot ceiling, you're almost certainly looking at a skydiving jump aircraft called a Cessna 182. Most of the smaller dropzones in the world use it, as it is this little workhorse offers the economy that small dropzones need in order to stay open. That said: it's a single-engine aircraft, so it's a little underpowered. A Cessna 182 can only really go up to 10,000 feet. Anything above that costs too much time and fuel to be worth it.
So that's the single-engine story. The other kinds of skydiving aircraft you might see on a dropzone are the big, bad boys: The turbine-engine aircraft. These guys rocket up to 13,500 feet of altitude three times before breakfast, happily hopping up to 18k when asked. And the turbine aircraft at Jumptown is the biggest, baddest of them all: The DeHaviland Twin Otter.
Here's the facts, jack: The less time you spend getting to exit altitude, the less time you'll spend in the plane being nervous. This helps. A lot.
Even though plenty of dropzones take jumpers up to the same general altitudes, depending on the configuration of the skydiving plane, it can take a very different amount of time to get there: anything from seven to twenty-something minutes. (Cessnas can take half an hour. Bring a book.) Our Twin Otter sits just where we like it - squarely at the bottom of that range.
Don't get us wrong - we don't hate single-engine aircraft. Every experienced skydiver has spent time in one! It's just that - well - once you've experienced the comfort of a turbine, you kinda have to be coerced into shoehorning yourself back into a 182 for any reason whatsoever. As it turns out, comfort in skydiving is the factor that mitigates all the rest.
Here's what it is: A single-engine plane fits just three jumpers and the pilot. That's it. And everybody in there is packed in like it's a flying clown car. When it's time to skydive, there's this little dance you have to do where everybody carefully pulls their entangled limbs out from under and around everybody else's. Then you elbow each other around to squeeze out the tiny door and navigate the strut and the step. Getting into the sky is a huge relief. If you can still feel your arms and legs when you find freefall, you celebrate.
At Jumptown, we want better than that for you, for our team and for our amazing "family" of local sport skydivers. We want the very best plane out there. And we've got it! Our Twin Otter boasts a great big door (for launching lots of jumpers into complicated formations), a comfy interior (like a flying living room, really, without the doilies over the headrests), a zippy ride up to altitude (so everyone can jump as much as they want to in a day), and comparably short requirements for takeoffs and landings (for all-important safety). Bonus skydiving safety features: Since there are two turbine engines in our Twin Otter, each provides the security of a backup in case one of them is having a bad day.
Sure, it's expensive to operate and maintain a Twin Otter to our exacting standards, but these babies can crank out the best skydiving in the world when you treat 'em right (like we're proud to do with ours). We're stoked to say that our tandem students and sport skydivers zoom up to altitude in the very best, fastest, safest, most comfortable aircraft available - an aircraft we're looking so forward to introducing you.
...So let's make that introduction, shall we? Reserve your skydive today!