Not a Crime"
By Brian Germain
A large sector of the skydiving population
is currently in danger of extinction. This is because
of the widespread proliferation of new DZ rules
that prohibit 270 turns for landing, or ban high
speed approaches entirely. Consequently, many jumpers
now find themselves homeless and considering alternate
sports. This is not a good thing for skydiving.
These new restrictions come in name of safety. We
have lost many friends this year due to canopy collisions,
and the management at several dropzones has responded
by adding new rules in an effort to prevent such
accidents from happening in the future. There are
several aspects of this direction of policy that
Remember 9-11? We felt unsafe after
the tragedy, and so we willingly gave up many of
our rights as free citizens. Now they are taking
nail-clippers away from little old ladies. It is
getting ridiculous, as is this policy banning advanced
approaches. It is a knee-jerk reaction to fear,
and I think we all know where that slippery slope
“My rights end
where your rights begin.”
This is the fundamental idea that forms civilization.
In other words, if I fly my parachute into you in
the pattern, I am in the wrong. I think everyone
agrees with this idea. It therefore can and should
be asserted that if my behavior does not have an
effect on anyone else, I should be allowed to continue
to do what I am doing, provided that I am doing
it in a safe manner.
We all need to challenge ourselves. This is what
keeps us showing up at the dropzone every weekend.
Thousands of people enjoy the challenge of high
speed approaches, and define the swoop landing as
an essential part of their experience. They wait
all week to get a few jumps in over the weekend,
and now many of them are unable to get what they
came for. To take that away is to cut many people
off from the very reason why they skydive in the
first place. Is that where we want to go with this?
We cannot afford to alienate anyone. There are
precious few experienced skydivers in the world,
and I would argue that we are the reason for the
dropzone in the first place. I understand that there
are a few DZOs that are doing very well running
purely tandem operations, but this is the exception
rather than the rule. Most dropzones are a business
of passion, rather than a pragmatic financial pursuit.
If we wanted to make a million dollars, we would
have done something else with our time. We do this
because we love it.
The atmosphere created by having fun jumpers around
is essential to the success of a dropzone, even
if the profit is significantly less. Sport jumpers
give the tandem students a reason to come back and
learn how to skydive. They come back for the jumping,
true, but they also come back for the connection
to other people. They want to be part of a community,
as do we all. We must therefore allow all aspects
of the sport to continue to proliferate so that
our numbers may grow. It is that simple.
We can create sustainable
It is possible. We simply need to think things
through, and adapt to the changing needs of a growing
sport. I remember the debate on my dropzone as to
whether or not we wanted to let the students jump
ram air canopies. Many were concerned that the “squares”
were too much responsibility, that students could
not be trusted. Are we saying the same thing about
We need to trust each other. True, we need to
create a structured environment in which we can
create a degree of predictability in the air over
our DZs. Otherwise none of us would be able to manage
all the variables in our heads. But as soon as we
start back-peddling away from danger, we are becoming
more similar to the groundlings we pass on the road
on the way to the dropzone.
We must have specific runways where the high speed
pilots can land safely, out of the way of everyone
else. We must communicate our intensions in the
loading area. We must create sustainable vertical
separation before reaching pattern altitude. Most
importantly, we must increase our level of awareness
under canopy so that, no matter what the circumstances,
we can fly in traffic without risk of running into
each other. We do this by remaining calm and keeping
our eyes open.
We need to stop pointing fingers and making over-protective
rules, and simply do what we need to do in order
to be safe and still have fun. Let’s work
together and unite as a whole, and make the dropzone
a welcoming place for everyone.
is one possible solution to the problem