Skydivers Report Growth, Safety Improvement For Sport

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Last year was one of the safest -- and busiest -- ever for skydivers, the U.S. Parachute Association said on Monday. Eighteen skydivers were killed, the fewest since 1962, and about 2.5 million jumps were completed around the country. "We should all take pride in the strides we have made in skydiving safety in the past half a century," said Ed Scott, executive director of the USPA. The group added that nearly 5,000 new members joined in 2007, for a total of 31,264. The industry also saw "an unprecedented upturn" in the number of skydiving licenses issued last year, the USPA said. However, safety is a relative term. "Nobody would argue that skydiving is a safe thing to do," the USPA says at its Web site.

In comparison, skiing, another popular "adrenaline" sport that has much higher participation, caused 22 deaths in the 2006/2007 winter season, out of 55 million skier/snowboarder days, according to the National Ski Areas Association. In skydiving, safety generally is determined by the individual, says the USPA. "Rarely do skydiving accidents result from equipment failure or bad luck. Skydivers use good preparation and judgment to manage the obvious and inherent risks."