Sharing the Sky

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You don’t need to be either a pilot or a skydiver to be gripped by the dramatic photos of the recent in-air collision between a departing single-engine airplane and a landing skydiver. The series of photos shows the airplane’s right wing snagging the parachute lines just as the skydiver was preparing to touch down. The jumper was thrown for a vicious loop, and the airplane impacted nose-first and was substantially damaged. Miraculously the pilot and the skydiver received only minor injuries. The sensational photos went viral, and the media propagated the story, demanding to know what happened and who was at fault. And across the country, airport managers sought out their drop zone operators to reassess how to ensure that pilots and skydivers avoid each other.

The truth is that collisions between airplanes and skydivers in the airport environment are extremely rare, occurring less than a handful of times over the past six decades. In any given year, skydivers are making more than 3 million jumps onto 240 airports, about evenly split between public-use and private-use.

Just as in flight training, where student pilots are taught from day 1 that “see and avoid” is the principal method of collision avoidance, the same is true for skydivers. The imperative of see and avoid is a shared responsibility among all those in the sky. There is no higher responsibility for those who share the air. Skydivers are not only taught to avoid landing on or near a runway, they are also taught to avoid overflying a runway below 1,000 feet.

Airports are shared facilities, and with good communication, they can safely accommodate both flying and skydiving. Skydivers cannot and do not insist that airports close or that aircraft operations cease when skydiving is underway. We know that unimpeded air traffic is vital to airports that serve the public. Equally, airports and pilots must understand how to accommodate skydiving operations while other aircraft are active. Let’s all, pilots and skydivers alike, use the recent accident as a reminder to adhere to proper procedures and constantly scan the sky and maneuver to avoid others, whatever they fly. It’s a big sky; let’s work together on every jump and on every flight to keep it a safe sky.

Ed Scott
Executive Director

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One Response to “Sharing the Sky”

  1. ChrisD Says:

    I wanted to comment on this because this article illustrates what I have to say about teaching safety. This may seem somewhat out of place but if we consider the overall goal and intent is to promote and prevent medical morbidity, then hopefully all can understand and prepare themselves as BEST we can. That said here is a reprint of some earlier post’s:

    Have I spoken about this issue recently / already? : Over 20 states mandate CPR training for all High School Seniors as part of their curriculum. AS well as requiring all commercial drivers, most all public teachers and hundreds of other “public” employment categories. This is because CPR doesn’t work when you rely on “OTHERS” to provide medical care. This message goes out to those that believe that preparedness and medical care is as close as your phone,….IT IS NOT. CPR doesn’t work when you rely on your local EMS system. This is why this training is a numbers game. The more people are trained to do this minimal skill the better a victims outcome / chances are. CPR even performed with only telephone instruction, is better that waiting for an ambulance.

    With this in mind, High risk activities, or even events where people congregate are much more likely to be around someone who could potentially benefit from initial CPR and bi annual recurrency training. The USPA however doesn’t think so. This issue is totally left to others, as far as they are concerned. Part of this ignorance stems from the idea that safety is someone else’s responsibility. The other part is that they, the USPA believe that it’s not in their purview or scope, partly because they foster efforts and training to teach skydivers “air skills and safety procedures.” The pre- and or post results of Safety gone wrong, are outside of the USPA’s mandate of activities, or so this thinking goes.

    The problem is that this type of incomplete thinking fosters an environment of carelessness and ignorance. Safety and injury prevention and care are a multifaceted phenomenon. The “whole package” for everything is required for a system and proper care to be delivered. Just saying that we have this facet or this part of an issue covered is insufficient, shortsighted, and is currently contributing to the many poor outcomes in medical care that a minority of skydivers experience yearly. CPR and First Aid training should be a mandatory requirement for operating any Drop Zone, anywhere. Many, but sadly far too few think like this, and it shows. We can do better and we should,… because we can.

    Requiring a few hours of CPR and First Aid training for our S&TA’s should be a minimal requirement. This not only would increase our preparedness and perhaps save a members life, but the awareness’s raised foster a safer environment which is just about everyone’s goal anyways. And additionally is a proactive measure which has been shown, if undertaken to further foster long standing safety measures already in place.

    ChrisD

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