Parachute Jumping is not happening frequently on VATSIM, yet it is a procedure that all TWR and above certified controllers should be familiar with.
This guide is designed to give you an overview of how parachute jumping is executed, what the legal aspects are and what you have to consider in an online environment.
Conducting a Parachute Flight
Parachute flights are conducted as VFR flights. A flightplan is not mandatory, yet it is recommended to file one. The act of dropping the jumpers may or may not require an approval depending on airspace class:
- In airspace C, D and E an approval by ATC is required.
- In airspace G no approval and no two way communication is required (one of the many reasons, why IFR traffic is not allowed in airspace G)
Note: If a flight requires an approval, is not only dependent on the location where the drop is going to happen, but also on the airspace below - imagine a pillar going down all the way from the aircraft. If the pillar crosses airspace C, D or E at any point, an approval is required. The parachute aircraft is, at all times, required to stay above the highest jumper. So it is safe to assume, that if the parachute aircraft is on ground, that the jumpers are as well.
Parachute Flights outside of TMAs
- If the aircraft is conducting the whole process of parachute dropping in airspace class G, no approval is required. Yet still, if the pilot desires, he may stay on the frequency for traffic information. The controller shall, upon initial contact, ask the pilot for the requested flightlevel in order to determine of an approval becomes necessary.
A/C: Wien Radar, guten Tag, OE-FDE, C208, VFR, just departed Lienz, climbing FL130 for para. ATC: OE-FDE, guten Tag. Roger, climb VFR, (optional: Squawk), QNH xxxx. Report all jumpers out. A/C: OE-FDE, all jumpers out. ATC: OE-FDE, roger, you may leave the frequency.
In case another VFR aircraft approaches the para-area, an information about the ongoing parachute activity shall be provided:
ATC: OE-DSL, parachute activitiy in the area Lienz out of FL130. A/C: Roger, OE-DSL.
- If the aircraft is conducting the process of parachute dropping - even partly - in airspace class C, D or E, the controller shall, upon initial contact, ask the pilot for the requested flightlevel. An approval may or may not be granted depending on traffic situation. Yet note: In real life parachute jumping is a commercial endeavour most of the time; therefore it is the goal to allow pilots to reach their requested level as soon as possible. Too much air time loses them money.
A/C: Wien Radar, guten Tag, OE-FDE, C208, VFR, just departed Niederöblarn, requesting FL130 for para. ATC: OE-FDE, guten Tag. Roger, cleared to operate airspace D FL130 and below, (optional: Squawk), QNH xxxx. Report ready to drop. A/C: OE-FDE, ready to drop in one minute. ATC: OE-FDE, dropping is approved, report all jumpers out. A/C: OE-FDE, all jumpers out. ATC: OE-FDE, roger, report passing FL125. A/C: OE-FDE, passing FL125. ATC: OE-FDE, danke, frequency change approved.
Alternatively, the clearance to operate airspace D (and the communication resulting) may look like this: A/C: Wien Radar, guten Tag, OE-FDE, C208, VFR, just departed Niederöblarn, requesting FL130 for para.
ATC: OE-FDE, guten Tag. Roger, cleared to operate airspace D FL130, (optional: Squawk), QNH xxxx. Report ready to drop. A/C: OE-FDE, ready to drop in one minute. ATC: OE-FDE, dropping is approved, report all jumpers out. A/C: OE-FDE, all jumpers out, request VFR descend. ATC: OE-FDE, VFR descend is approved, report passing FL125. A/C: OE-FDE, passing FL125. ATC: OE-FDE, danke, frequency change approved.
Parachute Flights inside of TMAs
The process is basically the same, yet there are some things to note (assuming the parachute flight is departing the very airport the TMA belongs to):
- Upon initial contact with the tower, the controller has to inquire the requested level and the intended location of dropping.
- This location may be on the runway (rare, and only during special events like airshows or airport festivities) or
- a special designated field for parachute dropping (like for example west of RWY 17C/35C in LOWG).
- Coordination has to conducted between TWR, APP and maybe CTR (depending on requested FL) in advance.
- Climb clearances may be issued by TWR after coordination with APP, or may be issued by APP later on.
- You can be quite creative with your clearances for the ascend. Examples:
OE-FDE, climb FL130, stay within five miles of Graz Nord.
OE-FDE, proceed VFR to Eisenstadt, 4500ft or below, after Eisenstadt climb FL130 direction south.
When the aircraft reports ready to drop, there a some thing to consider:
- IFR traffic must be segregated or separated.
- VFR traffic must be informed.
Separating parachute jumpers from IFR traffic
If the jumpers are going to pass through an area, where IFR flights are being conduced (for example an extended centerline, over the runway or the SID of a departing flight), the IFR flight has to be delayed or held on ground. Also the dropping may be delayed to allow the IFR traffic to pass first.
Segregating parachute jumpers from IFR traffic
There is also the possibility to segregate parachute jumpers from IFR traffic. This is done by assigning the jumpers an area that they are not allowed to leave. For example: If parachute flights are being conducted over LOWL (Wels), the controller may issue a clearance that implies that all jumpers have to stay south of LOLW. This way the CTR and the extended centerline of RWY 08 will not be penetrated and IFR flights may continue unhindered.
ATC: OE-FDE, all jumpers stay south of LOLW. A/C: All jumpers will stay south of LOLW. ATC: OE-FDE, danke. Dropping and VFR descend is approved. A/C: Dropping and VFR descend is approved.