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How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door

 


Premier billvon  (D 16479)
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Jan 14, 2012, 12:04 PM
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How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door Can't Post

This is a continuation of a thread in Incidents where a group of skydivers tore the door off a Skyvan by trying to open it incorrectly. It's here to try to serve as a focal point for "how to" comments rather than "what happened" comments.

First off some basic door stuff:

All doors should be closed for takeoff and early climb. This isn't just a pro-forma thing that bossy pilots insist on, it's important for a number of reasons:

1) Closing the door helps prevent anyone from falling out at fatal altitudes (like say 80 feet.)

2) A closed door presents less drag, and during an engine-out or other problem the pilot may need all the L/D he can get.

3) Closing the door prevents a prematurely opened container from becoming a very big problem.

4) Closing the door on many aircraft protects the jumpers just inside the door from debris kicked up from the undercarriage and prop blast, and in the event of a crash may keep things like broken glass, flames and tree limbs from inuring skydivers.

All that being said, there may be occasions where a pilot tells you to crack the door in the event of an engine-out; this is done occasionally to prevent a crash from warping the frame and trapping the door. This however is not the rule; it's an exception, and the pilot will let you know if he wants you to do that.

Another important note - skydivers like to yell at people near the door. They like to yell "DOOR!" and "GO! GO! GREEN LIGHT!" Generally it's best to have a very simple system (like watching the red light come on then opening the door, or having someone tap you when it comes on) to avoid the yelling. If people yell anyway, ignore them.

The one caveat there is that someday someone may really have something to say to you, like "Pilot says we're on a hold!" If they really seem to want to talk to you, stop what you're doing and listen to them. Take your helmet off/earplugs out if you can't understand them, because warnings about traffic under the plane etc are critical to hear correctly.

If it's just "GO! GO! GO!" then put your helmet back on and go, and have a little talk with them back on the ground about not screaming in the airplane.


Next some basic Skyvan stuff:

1) Most Skyvans have one big door in the back, two doors by the cockpit and one door on the roof. Only the rear door can be opened in flight. Some have two additional doors by the rear of the fuselage but that seems the exception.

2) Skyvans seem more susceptible than W/B problems than other larger skydiving aircraft, and most DZ's have rules on loading at any time (i.e. never more than 10 people behind a red line, or no more than 8 people on the edge at a time.) This is important during takeoff, climb _and_ exit; it is never OK to put more people behind that line.

3) The tailgate door is part of the body of a Skyvan and thus contributes to lift. If it is open aircraft control is affected slightly and performance decreases. Thus it is even more critical on a Skyvan that you do NOT open the door without the pilot's OK. It might make slow down climb if everything is going well. If things aren't going well it could make a bad situation much worse.

4) Skyvan doors generally have one latch that releases both sides, operated by a handle on the copilot's side. It is a very simple latch that just extends or retracts two smallish pins. It will not release under load. When the door is closed it rests against two or four hard stops (the aft-most ones are often missing; for skydivers this is good because they can snag gear.) When the door is fully open it must be latched again in position, and when up the pins are the only things holding the door up

5) These doors often have some kind of assist device - a constant force spring reel is the best approach, but many use simpler devices like bungee cords.

6) The "original" Skyvan doors have about an 18 inch gap between the floor and the door. This is big enough for pilot chutes to escape out of, and indeed if something (like a D-bag) is dropped during climb it will tend to roll out that gap even if the door is closed. Other Skyvans have a floppy additional cover attached to the door that can be flopped down over the opening to help prevent this. Other Skyvans have the rear door extended so there is only a tiny gap between the door and the floor.

Most important rule of opening skyvan doors - IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW ASK SOMEONE ELSE TO DO IT! Reading about it on the Internet is not sufficient training. You have to know how to do it AND practice doing it, either on the ground (ideal) or in the air with another person who knows how to do it.

During emergencies Skyvans door issues are more problematic than on other aircraft, because it requires coordination and finesse to open the door, and during an aircraft emergency both may be in short supply. Determine how the DZ wants to handle emergency exits. Open the door normally? Open it halfway, let it rest on the bungees then go out underneath? Just open the gap cover and squeeze out the gap? (has the advantage of maintaining aerodynamic integrity but has a lot of practical problems) All those ways can work - but talk about them _before_ they're needed.

With that said, to close the door before takeoff:

1) Stand by the copilot's side. Hold the door up with your right hand to unload the copilot side latch pin. Have someone else hold the other side of the door up to unload that pin. (You can do it yourself if you hold the door up in the middle but you need longer arms to do that.)

2) Turn the latch (handle in recess on the "outside" of the door) to release the pins.

3) Lower the door to the lower stops. If there are bungees you may need to press down with your foot. Have someone else help you again for the other side. Use _only_ the pressure you need to make the door just touch the stops. More pressure will make it harder to latch closed

If there are no bungees lower it slowly until it touches the stops.

4) Rotate the latch handle (now use the one inside the door) until both pins extend into their slots. You can see the pin on your side move into the hole so use that as a guide.

5) Flop the gap cover (if equipped) into place.

To open the door on jump run:

1) Get confirmation from the pilot that he's OK with the door opening. Often that means feeling the flaps go down then seeing the red light come on.

2) Stand on the edge of the floor. Have another jumper on the pilot's side to help.

3) On doors without bungees or with spring reels, just turn the latch and get ready to lift. On doors with bungees, put your foot as close to the latch as possible and push down enough to 'unload' the pin. Have the other guy do the same. You can generally see it move downwards and/or feel the resistance decrease by trying to twist the handle. If it still doesn't move it's likely that the other guy is putting too much pressure on the door, so tell him to back off. It doesn't take much pressure to unload the pin.

(And whatever you do don't have someone in the middle pressing on it!)

4) Turn the latch so the pins retract all the way. If you don't you'll leave a lovely arc of scored metal as the pin drags against the wall of the plane.

5) Lift upwards (with the other guy's help.) Most planes have stops that let you just lift until you feel resistance; if they don't you have to be a lot more careful with how high you lift.

6) With your right hand still on the door use your left hand to turn the latch back to the closed position. This again may take a little finesse to line up the pin with the hole. In general if the pin won't seat it's due to too much pressure, not too little.

7) Stand back away from the door (so the other guy knows that you're done) and get ready for exit.

Some warnings:

1) Skyvans are very loud. Don't assume you'll be able to hear well to coordinate. Hand signals work pretty well.

2) Lots of people think they know how to operate the door, and even more don't know a thing but will never admit that. Know who you are getting to help you.

3) It doesn't have to be the two people closest to the door. I will often have someone else operate the latch when I am rearmost on the copilot's side because the cords in my camera wings don't allow me to close the latch once the door is all the way up.

4) You can't see at all out of many Skyvan doors until they are open, and visibility out the windows is limited. Make sure you look down as you lean out to close the latch; you may be the only one who has a good opportunity to look down.


Squeak  (E 1313)

Jan 14, 2012, 3:19 PM
Post #2 of 21 (2246 views)
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Re: [billvon] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

this needs a video demo, you and DSE should go make one


Premier billvon  (D 16479)
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Jan 14, 2012, 3:22 PM
Post #3 of 21 (2241 views)
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Re: [Squeak] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

>this needs a video demo, you and DSE should go make one

That's not a bad idea. Next time I'm at Perris . . . could be done on the ground without too much trouble.


IanHarrop  (C 1152)

Jan 14, 2012, 3:32 PM
Post #4 of 21 (2230 views)
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Re: [Squeak] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
this needs a video demo, you and DSE should go make one

Based on word count, its going to need 1.6 videos


totter

Jan 14, 2012, 5:07 PM
Post #5 of 21 (2190 views)
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Re: [billvon] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

Very good coverage of door operation.
You hit all the essentials and were very clear in the explainations.


popsjumper  (D 999999999)

Jan 14, 2012, 9:46 PM
Post #6 of 21 (2109 views)
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Re: [billvon] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
If it's just "GO! GO! GO!" then put your helmet back on and go, and have a little talk with them back on the ground about not screaming in the airplane.

Great post, Bill. Thanks from all of us, I'm sure.

As good as the post was, I hate to be a naysayer but I feel strongly about this and have to disagree with your above statement.

In the case of guys just yelling, "GO! GO! GO!", (key phrase there) you cannot condone simply putting your helmet back on and going. Please let's clarify....

IF you, as the spotter, are comfortable that, ...
a) the spot is good, and
b) air traffic is clear, and
c) cloud clearances are good, and
d) the pilot has cleared for exit

...then yes, by all means go if you are going.

I just wanted to say, just because those people are yelling "GO!" it doesn't mean that any of those conditions listed above exist. Those guys back there away from the door rarely, if ever, actually know what's out there. They cannot see any of those conditions as well as the spotter can with the door open and looking out.

YOU are the spotter, YOU are the one looking, YOU are flying your parachute, not them.

So, personally, one should ignore those guys too and exit only when YOU are comfortable.

On top of all that, like it or not, there are going to be lemmings on there that will follow you out because they are depending on you to get it right. We have to think of them too, right, wrong or indifferent.

Best thing is that those guys back there nearest the pilot (say an Otter or SkyVan or such) to not say anything at all unless....
a) it's a message from the pilot
b) they see or know of some danger situation that the spotter doesn't see


Sorry to add a negative to your positive post.

For the youngsters, If you are the one in the door and you are not sure of what is going on, defer to the more experienced nearest you.


david3  (D 21297)

Jan 15, 2012, 5:05 AM
Post #7 of 21 (2064 views)
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Re: [popsjumper] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

I didnt take Bills statement of then put your helmet back on and go to mean just blindly jump out the door. I understood it to mean go on with proper exiting protocol. If he had said then put your helmet back on and jump I would agree with your concern.


Premier LouDiamond  (D 25931)
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Jan 15, 2012, 1:17 PM
Post #8 of 21 (1952 views)
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Re: How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

I'll throw it out there so someone doesn't later say " I thought you needed two people to do it". While using two people is a good idea to open the door, it isn't required. One person can open/close a skyvan door once you know how it works. This can vary from aircraft to aircraft though.


Premier LouDiamond  (D 25931)
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Jan 15, 2012, 1:20 PM
Post #9 of 21 (1948 views)
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Re: [Squeak] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
this needs a video demo, you and DSE should go make one


I've already got a few that show just opening/closing the door. If I get the time I'll try and post them up. If someone has some bandwidth and can host them let me know as the files are pretty big.


totter

Jan 15, 2012, 2:03 PM
Post #10 of 21 (1930 views)
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Re: [LouDiamond] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

I posted this on the "Incident" thread already, but this is a pretty clear video showing the door operation.
This is not intended to be instructional, since it is showing a full size door with no bungees, which is the exception to most skyvans out there.
The one thing that should be pointed out in this is that even though the jumper uses his foot to open the latch, he doesn't kick it or force it over.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmeUyKECCsQ


Skydivesg  (D 10938)

Jan 15, 2012, 2:07 PM
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Re: [LouDiamond] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Scot.

On a lot of Skyvans you're right - one person can handle it.

If I recall, the one at SDAZ is one that you can just push up and it locks open (correct me if I'm wrong)

But several of them require you to push up and then close the handle locking pins which have to line up on each side of the door.

While this can be done with one person it's pretty awkward.


Premier LouDiamond  (D 25931)
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Jan 15, 2012, 2:26 PM
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Re: [Skydivesg] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

No, the ones I'm referring to all require you to manually lock the door in the up position. I do it by myself all the time and don't find it at all awkward. Not saying everyone may be able to do this but it is not impossible.


totter

Jan 15, 2012, 5:04 PM
Post #13 of 21 (1879 views)
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Re: [totter] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

http://www.youtube.com/...mp;feature=endscreen

So here is another decent video from Eloy.

He uses his foot to open the plexiTongue, but does not use it to kick the handle.
The bungee is on the one (handle) side and ONLY the guy working the handle is stepping on the door.
Little problem latching it in the up position, but help is asked for and with the additional hand the door is secured in the up position.


Skydivesg  (D 10938)

Jan 15, 2012, 5:33 PM
Post #14 of 21 (1867 views)
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Re: [totter] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

Man, if I took 16 seconds from "Green" to "Go" my ears would definitely be burning.


sundevil777  (D License)

Jan 15, 2012, 11:53 PM
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Re: [Skydivesg] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Man, if I took 16 seconds from "Green" to "Go" my ears would definitely be burning.

That is why large formation RW jumpers are most wise...they get the best spot. Cool

How is the command to open the door usually done? Is there a separate light for that, or is word from the pilot passed on to those at the back? It would seem that a significant amount of time is warranted given that it might take a bit of fiddling to get the latches to open and then lock again.


popsjumper  (D 999999999)

Jan 16, 2012, 1:17 AM
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Re: [David3] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I didnt take Bills statement of then put your helmet back on and go to mean just blindly jump out the door. I understood it to mean go on with proper exiting protocol. If he had said then put your helmet back on and jump I would agree with your concern.

The part from Bill I was addressing:
Quote:
If it's just "GO! GO! GO!" then put your helmet back on and go, and have a little talk with them back on the ground about not screaming in the airplane.

OK. I read it differently. Go/jump...semantics or no?
I assume you recognize it as a valid concern regardless of Bill's statement. Do take note that I said, "Please, let's clarify...."

Please, let's not get into a pissing match over the meaning of "Go" vs "Jump" and detract from his good stuff.


(This post was edited by popsjumper on Jan 16, 2012, 1:28 AM)


popsjumper  (D 999999999)

Jan 16, 2012, 1:21 AM
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Re: [sundevil777] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
How is the command to open the door usually done? Is there a separate light for that,

Separate light by far and away.


piisfish

Jan 16, 2012, 1:42 AM
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Re: [LouDiamond] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
I'll throw it out there ...
oooh the pun... Laugh


rehmwa  (D 12816)

Jan 16, 2012, 9:22 AM
Post #19 of 21 (1695 views)
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Re: [Skydivesg] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
Man, if I took 16 seconds from "Green" to "Go" my ears would definitely be burning.

But due to latch fumbling, not dinking around He didn't seem to look for the spot either.

That said - we've been on dives where you've taken that much (thankfully). I recall Couch we're on the Skyvan and the light is green (pilot was putting the green on very short all day in high winds). The guys behind us are yelling "GOGOGOGOGOGO". I turned around and said to "relax, he knows what he's doing"

We get out, everybody makes it back.



Next load we have some of the same characters and they are bitching anyway for some reason. It's funny, you just let them go first though they were a smaller group. the got out on green - landing in the apple orchards LaughLaughLaughLaughLaugh

The rest of us waited like 20 seconds or so and then got out - the rest of the plane landed on.


Lesson is - spot for the load, not yourself.

and the big lesson ----- If you don't know how to spot for yourself, then you have no right to yell "GOGOGOGOGO"

I'll take a SkydiveSG spot any day, any jump. IMHO


normiss  (D 28356)

Jan 16, 2012, 11:09 AM
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Re: [rehmwa] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

After the three of them released the wind drift indicator, the spot became pretty clear.....
Tongue


popsjumper  (D 999999999)

Jan 16, 2012, 5:19 PM
Post #21 of 21 (1585 views)
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Re: [normiss] How to operate (and not operate) a Skyvan door [In reply to] Can't Post

In reply to:
After the three of them released the wind drift indicator, the spot became pretty clear.....
Tongue

ka-boom!
LaughLaugh



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