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Training Tip: Knowing when to jumpTraining Tip: Knowing when to jump

A student pilot is preparing for a brief flight from the nontowered airport in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to busy Boire Field in Nashua, New Hampshire, on the southern edge of Manchester Airport’s Class C airspace. Part of the assignment is to research and note radio frequencies to monitor en route.

Chart illustrating parachute jumping area between Fitchburg and Boire airports.

The student’s flight instructor reviews the prep, noting that the student has dutifully written down approach control, tower, ground control, and automated terminal information service frequencies.

“What about 123.05 MHz?” the CFI inquires.

Why would a frequency in the range of nontowered-airport common traffic advisory frequencies (CTAF) be included?

The question suggests the answer. After some hunting around the sectional chart, the student pilot zeroes in on Pepperell Airport, a private airfield south of Nashua’s Boire Field, almost directly along the route of flight, sitting in a “cutout” of the towered airport’s surface-based controlled airspace.

It’s always good practice to have the CTAF frequency of an airport you may overfly at the ready—and in this case, it’s an important safety consideration. Alongside the airport’s symbol are two more icons advising of glider and parachuting operations staged there.

The sectional chart’s legend refers the student pilot to the chart supplement for more information. There, in a recent listing of parachute jumping areas, appeared this note about the local activity, with location and altitude information: “3 NM radius. Daily SR–SS frequently ngt ops.”

Monitoring the CTAF takes on added importance when the student pilot researches Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) section 3-5-4 on parachute jump aircraft operations, and 14 CFR Part 105 on parachute operations.

The AIM section notes a responsibility of the jump-aircraft pilot: “Prior to commencing a jump operation, the pilot should broadcast the aircraft’s altitude and position in relation to the airport, the approximate relative time when the jump will commence and terminate, and listen to the position reports of other aircraft in the area.”

Air traffic control facilities with local jurisdiction also broadcast “jumpers-away” advisories, but in either case, only pilots monitoring the proper frequencies will be well informed.

Going straight to the source is another good idea. The airport's website offers contact information and a usefully detailed message to transiting pilots about heavy skydiving activity. It also cautions, “General aviation welcome but please call Pepperell Unicom 123.05Mhz 5 miles out for advisories, do not fly over the airport without calling it could be very dangerous.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: ATC, FAA publications, Flight Training
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