Ever wanted to see a parachute drop?

Got a last-minute call up this morning to take a load of parachutes up and kick 'em out. How could I refuse. It was on my lunch break anyway :P

So I get the call up and long story short: they need a pilot coz Emma (the other pilot) has to go to Bankstown (YSBK) to pick up one of the other planes. No biggie. Emma even fuelled and prepped the plane, put in the flight plan and organised a pilot's rig (parachute). Way to go - all I need to do was dip the tanks, kick the tyres and fly. Sweet!

So I decided to take the camera along with me and get a couple of happy-snaps. You can see the photos of today's flight here. I'm not entirely happy with the flight though. There's a couple of important radio calls I need to do BEFORE the punters jump out (in order);

  1. Clearance from Sydney Departure to drop and descend
  2. Broadcast on Sydney Radar (area) frequency notifying of drop
  3. Broadcast on Wollongong CTAF notifying of drop
  4. Call the drop zone and give them a 3-5 minute "heads-up" that the drop is about to happen

I forgot number 4! Dammit!! I call them up after I got into my descent which was FAR too late. I'm sure the guys got down just fine, but the ground crew (also jump masters) like to watch the canopies open in case there's problems.

I'll stick my hand up for this and admitted on the radio "my bad". But I was thinking on the drive home from the airport, why did I miss such an important call? Why wasn't I thinking straight? I think I've come up with the answer.

This was the only the third jump operation I've done in about 3 months, and the first one I've done in almost 4 weeks. The stick-and- rudder flying I can do in my sleep (you get like that after a few thousand hours) but procedurally I was so far behind the 8-ball it wasn't funny. I missed a call and didn't pick it up until it was too late. I'm not claiming this lack of recency as an excuse, but as an oversight. A link in the chain that led to me ultimately forgetting the radio call.

When I flew solo freight runs for a living, you get good at being strict on yourself to maintain standards. You're constantly reminding yourself that 5KIAS over speed on the approach is NOT acceptable, that "almost within tolerances" for the practise ILS (in VMC) is NOT acceptable, that missing a item on a check list is NOT acceptable. You have to be hard on yourself or you get sloppy. I knew that, and I practised it.

Since I've got back into flying, specifically as a jump pilot, I think I've become sloppy. I'm not being hard on myself, I'm not approaching the flying with the right attitude. I seem to adopting the attitude that this jump flying is pretty simple, I've done HEAPS more complicated things in the past and have stopped paying attention. I'm not unsafe (yet) but if I allowed this to continue, the next "oops" could be fatal.

Today was a wake-up call! No more "she'll be right", no more "I don't need to be attentive". I'm getting back into a professional mind-set where near-enough is NEVER good enough. It's on the numbers, by the book, per the checklist or not at all!

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