Friday Freakout: Swooper Avoids Plane + Glider Taking Off

Posted by Zej Moczydlowski

A swooper bails on his turn to hit the gates (on the edge of the runway) to avoid a plane taking off with a glider being towed behind it. Fortunately he corrected his course and avoided a bad day — propeller blades hurt! 😲

Why did it happen

Without more information, it’s hard to tell the full story behind this video… but we’ll try to fill in the blanks. First off, this swooper was focused on setting up their turn and lost situational awareness about what was happening below them. Next, that swoop lane (we’re presuming that’s what those cones are set up for) is SUPER close to the runway. Last, there are possible questions about communications between the jump plane, manifest, and other aircraft.

How could it be prevented

Situational Awareness

Obviously the first step is a solid spot and a good look at your target area before performing a turn. Yes, given a grass runway like this, it’s not that easy to spot the plane on the far end… but an experienced skydiver familiar with the dropzone should be aware of planes taking off.

Dropzone Layout

WHY IS THE SWOOP LANE ADJACENT TO THE RUNWAY!? This could have been prevented by moving the landing area further away (perhaps into that huge grass field that seems to stretch on forever?). It doesn’t matter if you’re swooping or bringing in a tandem, landing immediately next to an active runway seems like a bad idea. Not only because there’s the chance you might hit a plane that’s taking off or landing, but also because planes cause turbulent air that can easily collapse a canopy. This skydiver did mention that their canopy got hit by turbulence.

Communication

Again, we have no idea if this was a factor, but it’s worth discussing. Dropzones that have activity in such close proximity to a runway need to have good communication between their planes, the ground, other aircraft and/or ATC. If any one of those groups knew there was a pass of swoopers getting out while a plane was taking off, they could have held the jumpers or held the plane and prevented this incident from occurring.