Letters | Jun 01, 2019

Brian Pangburn

Today’s fast-paced communication has changed the way we view our world and ourselves. To receive a million views or thousands of followers or thousands of likes seems to be a top priority. And people need to come up with original ideas faster than ever to stay ahead of the pack. But what happens when these ideas or stunts break the law or violate safety policies or jeopardize our sport?

In a recent post on social media that went viral, a young jumper used a selfie stick to film herself drinking beer while under canopy. The drop zone banned her from jumping there, and USPA debated whether to revoke her membership (it decided on a suspension).

This jumper sought easy recognition by performing a senseless act that violated reasonable rules. She was thinking only of her own popularity and not any fallout, which could have been substantial. Dozens of drop zones every year battle with their local governments to stay open, even without videos like this surfacing. The local airport commission or city council could have closed the drop zone, which in turn would have affected the livelihood of its employees. And this one senseless act could have jeopardized the relationship that USPA has with governments at all levels.

We are extremely lucky to have USPA as our liaison between jumpers and the government. Because USPA has successfully lobbied the Federal Aviation Administration and other government bureaus over the years, we are not regulated in the same way other aviation-related entities are. But if skydivers do not adhere to our own safety policies, then the government will surely step in to regulate when and where and how we jump. Can you imagine having to blow into a breathalyzer prior to boarding the plane?

The social media comments since the selfie-taking, beer-drinking jumper’s post were both for and against her behavior. Some held the opinion that skydiving is one of the last “wild west” activities, and if jumpers are not allowed to do these acts, then why even skydive? But the majority were in support of following the safety requirements, for obvious reasons. The DZ also commented publicly (without using names), which was a defensive action for itself and for skydiving. The post showed the authorities that the sport takes safety seriously and doesn’t allow this type of behavior.

So as jumpers who enjoy the freedom of what we have in our sport, let’s ensure we help ourselves continue to reap the benefits of skydiving. If you think it would be cool to gain temporary notoriety at the expense of thousands of others, please think again. If you see another jumper about to commit a safety infraction to be popular, please remind them of the thousands of fellow skydivers who love what we do and want to continue the way we have been. We cannot help jumpers mature more quickly or have better decision-making skills, but we can hope to instill the idea that we don’t want the government to step in and control us. Tell them that it is their future, too. Fifteen minutes of fame is not worth a lifetime of consequences.

Brian Pangburn | D-18122
Casa Grande, Arizona

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