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I am schedule to go on a short flight (skydive)* on a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan during an international visit to some friends. I found the serial number of the flight, here is it's record.

Since privately owned aircraft within skydiving community are known not to be maintained as well as commercial operations and sometimes these pilots have very little flying hours, is there anything I as a passenger can do to improve the safety of the flight? For example, what pre-flight checks should the pilot make before taking-off?

Note* Related to this question.

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is there anything I as a passenger can do to improve the safety of the flight

You should do exactly what your told, when your told and make sure you keep well clear of spinning propellers. You will have a marshall or the pilot themselves guiding you when airside - do exactly as you're told!

what pre-flight checks should the pilot make before taking-off

If it's the first flight of the day the pilot will do a walk around of the aircraft. They will check the general airframe, as well as some specific things

  • The static ports being clear
  • Pitot covers/control locks all removed (those little red dangly things that say "remove before flight")
  • Control surfaces have free movement and their connecting rods are secure
  • Tyres & brakes satisfactory
  • Fuel is sufficient and uncontaminated
  • Propeller(s) undamaged
  • Oil sufficient in engines
  • ... and a load of other things!

Before each take-off the pilot will also run the engine up and run it at idle. Just before take off they will perform some pre-takeoff vital actions. You will probably not notice any of this, but I assure you they'll be doing them - they may take mere seconds.

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One thing to look (not just for this, but for with all aspects of aviation) is evidence of a Safety Culture. A skydiving operation is no different.

Skybrary defines Safety Culture as follows:

Safety Culture is the way safety is perceived, valued and prioritised in an organisation. It reflects the real commitment to safety at all levels in the organisation.

It should be clear to you as you interact with the company what their commitment to safety is. Do they have materials on the walls of their place of business with safety reminders? When you talk to them, do they appear to take safety seriously or does it seem to be an afterthought? Do they take time to address your concerns or do they brush them off?

It really comes down to professionalism. Do they wear uniforms, keep schedules, offer clear communication? It's not that these things make it safer, but safe operators tend to do these things.

If there is a unified message of safety that is repeated by everyone you contact, from the person checking you in, to the parachute rigger to the pilot, it's likely that they have a strong safety culture.

Safety Culture can have a direct impact on safe performance. If someone believes that safety is not really important, even temporarily, then workarounds, cutting corners, or making unsafe decisions or judgements will be the result, especially when there is a small perceived risk rather than an obvious danger.

You ask about preflight checks that you ensure a pilot does prior to take-off. In an environment like a skydiving operation, you might not see things like the pilot using a checklist because the pilot typically flies the same flight over and over again, many times in the same day, and likely uses a "flow" and doesn't verbalize the checks they are doing. They will likely look "relaxed" to you because they are doing this multiple times per day, but you can see, do they do things without rushing, make smooth adjustments? Again, it's not that this makes it safer, but safe operators tend to do these things.

At the end of the day though, like the other answer says, you have two options: trust the pilot and aircraft are competent and able to take the flight, or don't take the flight.

Occasionally when people look at me like I'm crazy for flying, I say "well I don't want to die, either, so I'm going to do everything in my power to minimize the risk of that happening on this flight." I'm sure the pilots of jump planes feel the same way.

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  • $\begingroup$ There's only one guy on board with a 'chute. I know who I'd trust :) $\endgroup$ – Jamiec May 23 '18 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ haha, exactly! Now if you climb in and you see a chute on the pilot... $\endgroup$ – Canuk May 23 '18 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ That last paragraph pretty much sums it up for me. $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 23 '18 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ jetphotos.com/photo/7629415 The pilot does have his own door for getting out. FAA regulations require wearing of chutes if more than 60 degree bank angle or 30 degree pitch angle is used - so the pilot may be wearing a chute if dives are used to get back on the ground quick for the next load of jumpers. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads May 23 '18 at 13:48
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Increasing your safety is easy:

  • Focus on your jump
  • Remember what you have been instructed
  • Don't interfere with other people jobs

Doing otherwise would be counterproductive, distracting you and the other people doing there jobs, increasing chances that someone would make a mistake.

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Since privately owned aircraft within skydiving community are known not to be maintained as well as commercial operations

They are? According to whom?

And it's wrong anyway, skydiving clubs are commercial aviation operations.

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