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New Online Tool For Pilots To Avoid Parachute Jump Areas

A recent update to ForeFlight makes finding (and avoiding) parachute jump areas a lot easier. Here's what you should know about the new feature...

Jeremiah Johnson

Report: Near Midair Collision

There are obvious hazards when operating near parachute jump areas. A pilot flying a Piper PA-28 Warrior near Los Angeles recently filed the following NASA ASRS report:

I was cleared into Class B Airspace and given direct to HHR and allowed to descend at my discretion. Approximately 5 miles out and approximately 2,000 feet MSL, I saw a person wearing a helmet, goggles, and some sort of harness at my 2 o'clock position. I applied full left aileron to avoid hitting the person. I was not able to tell if it was a para-plane, a parachutist, or exactly what I saw as there was no time. I did not see a chute or canopy, probably because it happened so fast. I notified SoCal Approach that I almost hit someone, maybe a parachutist. Approach asked me to contact Hawthorne Tower, which I did and continued to land the plane.

Keep in mind, there's not enough information in this report to determine if the pilot or ATC was aware of a parachute operation NOTAM. That being said, there are no parachute operations depicted in the immediate area around HHR on the VFR sectional (see below). Based on the location, it's likely that the parachutists shouldn't have been there.

This brings up an interesting point. As a pilot, what can you do to avoid parachute jump operations?

How Can You Avoid Parachute Operations?

Frequent parachute operations are depicted on sectional charts with a parachute icon. They're also sometimes listed in the airport remarks section of the Chart Supplement. Keep in mind, however, that just because there isn't an icon on the map, doesn't necessarily mean there aren't jump operations.

NOTAMs are typically one of the best places to look. NOTAMS published for jump activities include the location, altitudes, and time/duration of the jump.

ForeFlight Update: Marked Jump Areas

You're expected to know the NOTAMs along your route of flight, and ForeFlight's recent update makes spotting jump areas much easier. Here are the specifics from this latest release...

"View Parachute Jump Areas in the US directly on the Aeronautical Map and tap-hold on them to view additional information. Tap Details in the Add to Route popup to view a PJA's information, including its name, associated airport or aerodrome, upper and lower altitude limits, active hours, and more."


ForeFlight

Parachute Operations Have Regulations Too

Parachute jumps are not authorized into controlled airspace, except when they have permission and coordination from the controlling ATC agency. When operating in controlled airspace, jump pilots are required to communicate with ATC at least 5 minutes prior to jump operations. You can find a full list of regulations in 14 CFR 105.

How about NOTAMs? Surprisingly, jump operations are not always required to be NOTAM'd. However, at non-towered fields, the nearest ATC facility must be notified at least 1 hour in advance but not more than 24 hours in advance. The operation must also have approval from airport management. As for the actual jump, ATC must be notified 5 minutes prior to drop. This is another reason why it's almost always a good idea to pick up VFR Flight Following from ATC when available.

Have you used this new feature on ForeFlight? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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