The U.S. Parachute Association says a bill included in the Senate’s version of the next FAA Reauthorization will create needless expense and red tape for the industry. USPA Executive Director Albert Berchtold told AVweb in an interview that the Air Tour and Sport Parachuting Improvement Act of 2023, sponsored by Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, will burden jump zone operators without improving safety. “It will create redundant regulation that doesn’t solve the problem,” said Berchtold.
Under Schatz’s bill, jump pilots would have to undergo additional annual recurrency sessions “that address, at a minimum, operation- and aircraft-specific weight and balance calculations, preflight inspections, emergency and recovery procedures, and parachutist egress procedures for each type of aircraft flown.” Berchtold said commercial pilots are already trained and must demonstrate proficiency in all those skills and requiring extra training and testing will be another barrier to attracting new pilots to jump zones.
The bill would also require operators to overhaul engines and other life-limited components at the manufacturer’s suggested TBO and not be permitted to fly on condition as approved by maintenance professionals. Berchtold said that aspect essentially assigns a regulatory mandate to the manufacturers.
Berchtold said Schatz’s bill is a rehash of recommendations from the NTSB that were rejected by the FAA in 2008 when the board addressed drop zone safety issues. He said the FAA and USPA acted on other NTSB recommendations at the time but opposed these because of the same reasons he’s now citing. Berchtold said the industry is already amply regulated and he would rather see an emphasis on enforcing existing regulations. He also said the industry’s safety record has improved since the 2008 recommendations from the NTSB, but a major crash in Hawaii in 2019 marred that record.
Berchtold said Schatz’s bill was apparently inspired by the crash of the jump zone King Air from Dillingham Airport in Hawaii in 2019 that killed all 11 onboard. The NTSB found the aircraft stalled after an aggressive takeoff. It also found that previous unrepaired damage from a stall/spin accident in the crash plane left it with a twisted wing that may have contributed to the loss of control.
The House’s version of the reauthorization bill does not include these provisions and was passed in August. The Senate is expected to mark up its version of reauthorization next week, and Berchtold said there is opposition to the parachute provisions from some members.