Friday, August 14, 2009

Jumpseating The Caravan

Last year when I was still in Évora finishing my commercial pilot licence I got in contact with a pilot who was working there flying parachuters. This guy flew a Cessna Caravan C208 a few times a day, taking the divers for their jumps. A few days after meeting him and after several "walkarounds" to the plane and lots of take-off and landing observations from the ground I decided to take a shot and have a talk with him. After finishing my instruction flight on the Socata TB20 I strolled to the parachuters hangar and looked for the pilot. We chit-chatted a little bit and after asking his boss for permission I got the thumbs up to join him on the right seat of the Caravan.
I jumped in through the ladder on the back of the plane and moved forward to the right seat, plugged in my headseats and in a couple of minutes the guys were on board and the engine was roaring. We moved to the active runway and lined up for departure. At this moment I was amazed with the size of the "Van", it was like riding a really big Cessna 172. I was seated 2 meters above the pavement and the engine idling in front of me was impressively silent.
As the pilot eased the throttle forward the engine came to life plunging me to the back of my seat and making those 3 tons of aircraft lift easily into the air. From what I recall it took us something like 10 minutes to reach Flight Level 150 and once there and over the aerodrome the 12 sky divers jumped out of the aeroplane and we started our impressive descent! Descending at 4000 feet per minute we entered downwind at FL080 and turned base at 3000 feet only to be established on a very short final quite close to the runway and only at a few feet over the ground. Once on the runway the braking action became apparent with the reverse being engaged and the aircraft stopping in less than 500 meters.
That was about it, in just 15 to 20 minutes of flight I was overwhelmed with the performance display and added the C208 to the "Favourite Aircraft List". I now seriously hope I have the chance to fly one myself one day!
The aircraft I flew in was N9347B, a Cessna Caravan C208B built in 1988 and leased to a portuguese company to perform sky diving activities.
1. N9347B loaded and ready for another flight, taxying to the active runway at Évora (LPEV).
I seriously recommend every pilot and aviation lover to try and fly a Caravan at least once, it is an amazing experience!
References: Photo copyrighted by

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