Letters | Jul 01, 2020

Michael Smith

Should jumpers who die inside skydiving aircraft be counted as skydiving fatalities? In the “Letters” column in the September 2019 Parachutist, Jed Morris, D-21521, wrote, “For the 2019 skydiving fatality report, USPA should include those who perished in the Dillingham accident.” I agreed with Morris in a letter to USPA Director of Safety and Training Ron Bell.

Bell’s position was that USPA regulates the skydive and only the skydive. He remarked that “as long as the skydiver is still in the aircraft, they are passengers of the aircraft and the pilot is responsible for their safety.”

Of course, I understand that people inside planes are not outside skydiving. So admittedly, decedents from imperiled skydiving planes were not technically engaged in skydiving. Nor, technically, are jumpers who misuse our sport to commit suicide. Yet they are classified as skydiving fatalities. To be sure, they are technically in freefall, but folks deliberately freefalling to an intentional death are not involved in what I think of as skydiving.

Bell’s and my opinion differed, but we did agree that there should be an opportunity for USPA members to voice their opinions on the issue. Write to USPA. It’s your opinion that counts!

Michael Smith | D-14537
Southern Pines, North Carolina

Editor’s note: As the professional organization for skydivers, USPA investigates and analyzes fatalities that occur during skydives. USPA does not perform this function for aircraft accidents, even when skydiving-related, since that responsibility rests with the National Transportation Safety Board. However, Parachutist does report the number of fatal skydiving-related aircraft accidents annually, including the NTSB’s findings of probable cause, in conjunction with the annual fatality summary in the April issue.

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