Skydiving has come a long way from the days of the general public seeing us as a bunch of reckless daredevils with a death wish. But there are still plenty of people out there who don’t understand what skydiving and skydivers are all about. As an organization, USPA needs to take whatever steps we can—both big and small—to change the public’s misperceptions and inform the media and the general public about our sport.
Recently, an article appeared in the “Fairbanks Daily News Miner” in Fairbanks, Alaska, that disparaged skydivers. This unrelated news article about traffic violations included a quote from the Fairbanks police chief’s memo to his department: “Our profession has only recently come to appreciate the irrefutable correlation between collisions and crime, a relationship that is explained easily: Risk-taking behaviors of any sort — gambling, skydiving, careless driving or committing crimes — need a place and opportunity to happen.” A concerned USPA member in Alaska forwarded the article to USPA, expressing his dismay at skydiving being grouped with reckless and criminal activities.
This seemed like a great opportunity to educate the police chief, his department and the newspapers’ readers about our sport—even in a place with minimal skydiving activity like Alaska. As USPA President, I sent a letter to the police chief and the newspaper explaining that skydiving is a legitimate aeronautical activity and hobby and that skydivers are a diverse group of people who are upstanding, contributing members of society. You can read the letter here.
An off-handed statement like the police chief’s may not seem like a big deal, but it’s in small ways like this that people can get the wrong impression about skydiving—especially when it’s directed to those whose job it is to enforce the law. USPA and all its 34,600 members need to take every opportunity to help the general public understand that ours is an amazing, life-changing sport and that we as skydivers are responsible aviation enthusiasts.