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Anemometer | Nov 01, 2021
Anemometer

Albert Berchtold

Ensuring skydiving’s rightful place on airports and in the airspace system: It’s one of USPA’s three core functions. This year, we have worked diligently on multiple fronts to support this effort. Not a week goes by that we don’t provide advice and guidance to current and aspiring Group Member DZs. Some are dealing with airport sponsors or airport managers who have incorrect assumptions about our sport. Others need help building positive relationships with their local FAA Flight Standards District Offices and Aviation Safety Inspectors.

Some situations are cut and dried. It’s wonderful when we can easily resolve questions by pointing to information compiled in the DZ Resource section of our website or by providing a better understanding of our Basic Safety Requirements or Group Member program. 

Other times, the discussions are about airport access challenges that take months or years to resolve. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees of how long access disagreements will take to reach resolution or what that resolution will look like. The one thing that is guaranteed is USPA’s resolve. If it’s in the best interest of our sport, we’re in it for the long haul and will help guide our members no matter how long it may take. 

Earlier this year, USPA filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the 9th District Court alongside the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Helicopter Association International and National Business Aviation Association. The brief supported a USPA Group Member who has been battling a municipal airport for more than five years. The city is attempting to exile skydiving to a parcel of land five miles away from the airport after the Group Member won an FAA determination and appeal stating that the airport could safely accommodate skydiving. The fight continues.

Last year, when the Hawaii Department of Transportation announced its intent to terminate lease agreements with all tenants at Dillingham Airfield, we and a number of other associations, local stakeholders and politicians began working toward a resolution. After HDOT inched the lease termination date back twice, the third pushback was all the way to 2024, the original lease-termination date. Meaningful negotiations are underway for a long-term solution for general aviation on the airfield.

Another Group Member is negotiating with its airport sponsor, which is attempting to charge the DZ for its landing area on a square-footage basis, as it would for leasing a hangar. The list goes on, but in each case, we are assisting where we can to help protect our sport from those who would seek to inappropriately discriminate and deny fair access to airports and airspace.

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board released safety recommendations to the FAA for Part 91 revenue-generating operations. While the NTSB did not directly point these recommendations at USPA, it did direct them toward the regulatory body that oversees our sport. This presents an opportunity for USPA to continue our long history of setting an example of an organization that cares more about skydiving safety than anyone else. Of course we do; no one has a more vested interest in keeping the sport safe than us.

So, what challenges will come up next? Some are foreseeable, and those we are working to preempt through our regular, consistent work with Group Members, partner associations and governmental bodies. But what about the unforeseeable? The one thing that is certain is uncertainty. What we do know is that every step you take as a member can have an influence on our future. Every aircraft accident, student skydiving accident or drug, alcohol or medical-related incident cracks the door to additional regulation and or oversight. We can avoid those things by collectively making wise decisions and following the Federal Aviation Regulations, USPA governance and safety regulations. Remember, we’re all in this together. This is your USPA. This is your sport.

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