Aviation Groups, Skydivers Oppose Part Of Reauthorization Bill


A contentious section of the latest version of the FAA Reauthorization bill has survived the Senate markup and seven organizations have written Congress urging it be scrapped at the conference committee stage. The Air Tour and Sport Parachuting Safety Act would require sightseeing businesses, including heritage flight operations at aviation museums, to operate under Part 135. They now operate under Part 91 through letters of authorization. It also requires recurrent training on terrain avoidance and weight and balance calculations and the installation of terrain warning devices. The letter says most of the small businesses engaged in those types of operations will not be able to afford the measures.

For skydiving operations it will require the FAA to form a rulemaking committee to write regulations that will require operators to overhaul engines and time-limited components strictly according to manufacturers’ recommended TBOs. It also would require recurrent training on weight and balance and on preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown.

The USPA is urging its members to contact their elected representatives to get the language removed. The USPA says the members should express “our deep concerns that the proposed requirements are not scalable and do not support a data-driven approach to enhancing safety for these segments of aviation.”

The contentious bill was added to the House reauthorization bill by Hawaiian Democratic congresswoman Jill Tokuda in response to a jump plane crash that killed 11 and also to a spate of air tour accidents in 2019 and 2020. It was cut from the House version of the bill but made it into the Senate version and an effort to have it removed at the Senate committee stage failed.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Canada treats skydiving operators as commercial aviation enterprises. Aircraft have to be maintained to commercial standards, pilots require annual training and a competency check, they have to have an approved operations manual etc etc.

    Skydiving seems to be doing fine here and there doesn’t seem to be the kind of accidents that reflect an egregious lack of application of the most basic safe operating procedures.

    No rules means a race to the bottom.

    • I would be interested on how much drop zones in Canada charge for a skydive, or even for a tandem skydive. I’m going to guess that the legal system in Canada is probably not as sue happy like it is in the US.

      • Did a little research on pricing of skydives between a drop zone I occasionally jump at and a drop zone in the Toronto area. A tandem in my local dz around $279. The dz in Canada tandem is 349 Canadian dollars. Experienced skydivers at my local dz pay $32 to 13500ft. In the Canada dz it is 49 Canadian. Since the US dollar has been devalued so much the difference is negligible. Both DZ’s use turbine planes to get to 13500agl. I guarantee if US skydivers had to pay $49 for a jump most US dz operators would never hear the end of complaints about pricing.

        • Canadian commercial operators expenses are almost totally in US dollars as there is effectively North American pricing for Canadians. So it seems that they can operate as a commercial operation without a huge cost penalty to the sky divers. In any case there seems to be a very significant difference in accident rates between US and Canadian operators. The only obvious difference I can see is the regulatory environment they operate under. I get the antipathy to regulation, but the reality is that without regulation the industry defaults to the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately too many operators are willing to sacrifice safety to save money and undercut the competition.

        • 2 things

          1) Toronto is the most expensive city in Canada and also top 5 in North America.

          A more “representative” location would be Ottawa which is an upper-high cost of living city. I used Parachute GO’s rates for this comparison.

          A 13.5k tandem jump is $315 CAD ($233.68 USD – NOT a “negligible” difference).

          A 13.5k solo jump is $38.27 CAD or 28.39 USD.

          So turns out it’s actually cheaper than the prices you listed at your home DZ despite having a larger safety margin. I bet US DZ’s could figure it out.

  2. In my local area there are 3 skydive operators within a 30 minute drive. All 3 have had crashes in the past 3 years due to engine problems. I’m generally unfavorable to government regulation, however some of these operators run these planes to the ragged edge. One operator lost 2 182’s a few months apart.

    Why does taking passengers on a one way trip instead of roundtrip exclude them from 135?

  3. If the “Air Tour and Sport Parachuting Safety Act” is passed, skydivers will pay more, some skydiving operations will shut down, while others may attempt to survive independently or partner with Part 135 operators. Ah, IMO, air tours dragged skydiving into the political arena. Finito la comedia!

  4. Anyone who thinks requiring pt135 type rules or mandating pt135 operations will make skydiving flight operations more safe is just kidding themselves. In the 24 years of pt135 and 4 different companies experience, and as an A+P, I have seen plenty of marginal things done with planes on a pt135 certificate. I have seen and dealt with some pilots who passed their pt135 check ride who had no business in an airplane. These proposed changes will do nothing but greatly increase cost of operating to the point of shutting down most drop zones that operate C182’s. If you mandate following manufacturer TBO’s on life limited items like engine rebuild times, how long before this rule would be applied throughout all pt 91 ops? Pt 135 has an insurance coverage requirement, something that for skydiving does not exist for piston airplanes, and on turbines does not cover the actual act of leaving the airplane on a skydive. That alone would shut down the entire industry. Also the FAA has neither the resources, expertise, or desire to regulate skydiving operations any more than they currently do. Can you imagine an FAA inspector giving a check ride in skydiving ops? They don’t even like giving check rides for what are now normal pt135 ops. Try getting an operations manual approved. Any VFR operation is last in priority as far as the FAA is concerned.


    I’m an FBO operator, and former skydiver.

    Ask any Part 135 pilot or certificate holder if they think the added requirements for Part 135 add to safety.

    Do the same for insurance operators–Part 135 costs are higher.

    Ask yourself–“Which operations have the best accident records–Part 135 air taxi, or corporate operators?” Both operate the same type of airplanes–usually singles and twins under 12,500# gross weight–yet Part 91 corporate operators have a much better safety record–and insurance costs.

    Ask any pilot–“would you rather work for a Part 135 or Part 91 operator?”

    Ask any maintenance tech–“would you rather work on a Part 135 airplane, or a Part 91?”

    I’ve run Part 135 operations–from singles to Jets. I also sell airplanes, and have potential buyers ask “can I put it on an air taxi certificate to help spread the fixed costs of the airplane?” I tell them “YES–but not here–we want nothing to do with Part 135!” I then give them a list of local Part 135 operators to contact–once they find out the true cost of 135 operations, they decline as well–either operating Part 91, or staying with a smaller aircraft.

    It’s a sad commentary on our industry that so few aircraft operators or pilots do not want to participate in “Air Taxi” operations. If it was SAFER, and resulted in INCREASED USE OF THE AIRPLANE–WOULDN’T YOU THINK THERE WOULD BE A DEMAND FOR PART 135?

    Yet another example of the old Canard that’s been around for more than the 62 years I’ve been flying–“I’m from the FAA, and I’m here to HELP!” (smile)

  6. This is from the NTSB report on the King Air Sky diving crash

    The probable cause of this accident was the pilot’s aggressive takeoff maneuver, which resulted in an accelerated stall and subsequent loss of control at an altitude that was too low for recovery. Contributing to the accident were (1) the operation of the airplane near its aft center of gravity limit and the pilot’s lack of training and experience with the handling qualities of the airplane in this flight regime; (2) the failure of Oahu Parachute Center and its contract mechanic to maintain the airplane in an airworthy condition and to detect and repair the airplane’s twisted left wing, which reduced the airplane’s stall margin; and (3) the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) insufficient regulatory framework for overseeing parachute jump operations. Contributing to the pilot’s training deficiencies was the FAA’s lack of awareness that the pilot’s flight instructor was providing substandard training.​

    • I’m fully aware of that accident. If the pilot had not been “hot dogging”, the accident probably would not have happened in the first place. As far as more regulation is concerned, that may look to be a solution, but being a pilot working for a commercial operation, I know the realities of dealing with the FAA. Right or wrong, getting the FAA more involved will only create more paperwork and other bureaucratic nonsense that will not improve safety in any way. It is my understanding TC rules use CSPA to govern skydiving ops, some thing not required in the US, to use USPA rules with the exception of demo jumps. Most Americans resent more government intrusions with the resulting adversarial relationship, especially American skydivers. Not sure if Canadians have that same attitude toward their government agencies.

  7. CSPA only covers the regulation of jumpers after they have exited the airplane. Up untill then sky diver operations are regulated by the Transport Canada Canadian Aviation Regulations, Sub Part 702. It is not perfect but it is IMO better than nothing. The inconvienent fact is that there seems to be a signifcantly higher accident rate for skydiving aircraft in the US over Canada.

    To bad Paul Bertorelli is not here anymore as I would be interested in his take as both a pilot and sky diver.

  8. Le me get this straight. They want to take an aircraft with the doors off where everyone onboard, including the pilot, is wearing a parachute and climbing to 13,000 feet above the terrain in clear skies over a known flat landing area and have the airframe equipped with an electronic terrain warning system to make sure they don’t hit the ground. Oh the irony. Can anybody remember the great skydiving scene from Fandango? “Sorry Dude!”

  9. Was a 23 year skydiver and, as a retired A&P, what with the proliferation of turbine engined aircraft, and considering the frequency of climbs to altitude with any of the jumpships used, the small number of incidents is regrettable but not worth the hue and cry on this. In 1981, a C-45/Twin Beech I had jumped in the late ’70’s crashed into Pearl Harbor and 12 of 13 died because the pilot made an operational mistake at 2,000 feet while orbiting Aloha Stadium for a demo jump. Lost a lot of friends but the hysteria generated by this woman Tokuda is over the top. I support USPA and others on the elimination of this provision.

  10. As posted in response to some comments, the Part 135 requirements in the proposed Act apply to air tour operations only, not to skydiving. The skydiving-relevant bits refer to aircraft maintenance and pilot training.

    Here’s a link to the proposed act. The skydiving section begins at the bottom of page 12.

    Of course, the great majority of the whole thing is verbiage regarding how the bureaucrats must increase the bureaucracy to maintain bureaucratic monitoring and control of said verbiage and the bureaucratically created increase in bureaucracy.

  11. Part 135 was designed to protect people seeking air transportation between airports. It assumed that the people paying for the ride know little about airplanes–so the FAA set up the qualifications for the owners, pilots, and dispatchers–as well as weather minimums and runway considerations in order to protect these non-cognizant passengers.

    Skydiving, by comparison, has little in common with Part 135. The owner of the aircraft, the operator, the pilot, and the passengers are aware that this may be a hazardous sport–and willingly elect to participate. All participants have been briefed on procedures and emergency actions–including any “tandem passengers” (have you ever watched a training video for those signing up for a tandem jump? The video producer INTENTIONALLY show the things that MAY go wrong–and even goes to the length of portraying the passenger and tandem jumper as “doofus”-types, instead of looking glamorous.

    Tandem jumping–and sport parachuting in particular–is one of the unique sports where the risk is readily apparent. Anybody that has been in the aviation business for any reasonable amount of time elects NOT to be involved in Part 135–a very sad commentary on the state of the GA business–you have a LOT of under-utilized aircraft in the system–yet most owners and pilots elect NOT to participate because of the cost of burdensome over-regulation.

    And now, they even want to expand it to “protect” people from a readily apparent threat–jumping out of an airplane.

    What’s NEXT? Part 135-like “flight checks” administered by the FAA for the jump master? Regular “equipment checks” (equivalent to “100 hour inspections”) on tandem parachute rigs? (In all fairness, the “passengers” have always been shown the way to the “emergency exit”–like a Part 135 passenger!). How about Part 135-like requirements for a Class II medical for the “tandem master”? Perhaps a 135-like “weather briefing?” Part 135 FAA “proficiency checks” for the tandem master “pilot?”

    Of course, the FAA “Inspector” should have to be current in all of these operations–it would be interesting to see how many inspectors volunteer for the job!

    Perhaps the proponents of this silliness would feel better if “tandem skydives” went to “BASE jumping”. (jumping from “Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges), and Earth”) instead of putting up with Part 135-like “inspections” and regulation?

    Yes, where is Paul Bertorelli when we need him most for comment? He IS uniquely qualified! He DID say that he may do an occasional article–C’mon, Russ–ASK BERTORELLI.

    • Could not have said this better! Even if skydiving is not included in going pt135, the training requirements for jump pilots creates an interesting situation. Who would do the training, what kind of signoff would be required? And if the requirement to adhere to manufacturer TBO is passed, how long before that is made a requirement for all pt91 operations?

  12. Leave the current part 91 FAA regulations as they are. Instead of changing the regulations, ENFORCE the existing ones. Stop foreigners, including the Japanese and Chinese from messing-up our beautiful American aviation industry, finely regulated by the FAA.
    Just a little bit more oversight in some operations, that’s all folks.