"What precautions should I take when flying near airports where parachute jumping is in progress? How can I find out where these operations are taking place?" - Nick C.
“Prepare, look and listen!
The sectional charts will depict parachute jumping areas. Familiarize yourself with the appropriate symbol on the legend of the sectional chart so you know how they are depicted.
If possible plan your flights to avoid airports with high parachute jumping activity, especially on weekends or other days when activity is highest. Operating in these areas can be a huge source of distraction for pilots.
Let me share a tragic story. Several years ago while flying through a parachute jump area, a cross-country aircraft stuck a parachutist. The parachutist lived sustaining only a broken ankle while all those on the aircraft perished due to damage to the aircraft. Damage to the elevator rendered the aircraft unflyable and it crashed.
If flying near an area of jump activity, monitor the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (of the jump airport) to be aware of upcoming jumps and the Jumpers Away call. Most pilots of jump aircraft will also provide notice prior to jumpers away, so be listening for these radio calls as well. If you are getting advisories from ATC, they can also advise you of jump activity if the jump aircraft is in communication with them.
Always remember that the jump aircraft is often in a hurry to get back to the airport rapidly for their next stick, so be aware of its position after the jumpers have left the aircraft.”