Regulatory Brief -- FAA issues changes to skydiving regulations

Regulatory Brief

FAA issues changes to skydiving regulations

The issue:

On May 9, 2001, the FAA published final changes to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 105 governing skydiving operations.� The FAA had proposed the changes to align the regulatory language with existing operational requirements.� The new regulations were intended to reflect the improvement in equipment and operational practices utilized by the skydiving community since the original rule's inception decades ago.

The importance to our members:

The changes to 14 C.F.R. � 65, � 91, �105, and � 119 included many new privileges for skydivers.� Unfortunately, many key issues surrounding ATC/Flight Service communications and notification, accident reporting, and responsibilities of the pilot in command have been overlooked or inappropriately addressed.��� Under the new rule, the pilot in command of the jump aircraft is responsible for the actions of the skydivers after they leave the aircraft.� Further, the regulation did not require jump operators to notify Flight Service for the purposes of NOTAM dissemination prior to commencing jump activity.

Significant provisions:

�                     AOPA Comment :

14 C.F.R. �105.13 Radio Equipment and Use Requirements:� This section is based on the current �105.14 and includes the FAA's recommendation to require pilots to report skydiving activities to the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the airspace in which the operation is being conducted.� No provisions have been made to ensure that Flight Service is notified for the purposes of NOTAM information gathering and dissemination.

�                                 �FAA disposition :

In their disposition of AOPA's comments to the proposed rule, the FAA denied AOPA's request to include a regulatory requirement for skydiving operators to notify Flight Service for the purposes of NOTAM dissemination prior to commencing jump activities.� FAA stated that although the regulations currently do not include a specific requirement for FSS contact, it is common industry practice to do so.� Thus, the FAA saw no need to include a regulatory requirement for FSS contact in the final rule.

�                     AOPA Comment :

14 C.F.R. �105.27 Accident Reporting Requirements:� This is an addition to part 105.� In response to an NTSB request for more data on skydiving safety, the FAA has proposed a requirement for the pilot or the drop zone operator to notify the FAA of any parachute operation that results in serious or fatal injury to the parachutist.� Since current FAA policy requires that they investigate all reports they receive, this new reporting requirement could increase the likelihood of an investigation or enforcement proceeding against the pilot.� Reporting such accidents and incidents to the NTSB instead of the FAA would allow for a neutral party to be involved in the data collection.

�                                 FAA Disposition :

The FAA agreed with AOPA that there is no clearly defined need for any type of regulatory required accident reporting system, stating that they currently did not have the infrastructure in place to handle such data collection activity.� Thus, this section was deleted from the final rule in its entirety.

�                     AOPA Comment:

Current skydiving regulations put the pilot in command of the jump aircraft in the position of being held responsible for any inappropriate actions of skydivers even after they leave the aircraft.� By failing to address this under the NPRM, the FAA ignored the fact that a pilot has no control over the actions of a skydiver after that individual has left the aircraft.

�                                 FAA Disposition:

The FAA denied AOPA's request that a pilot no longer be held responsible for the actions of individuals not onboard the aircraft.� In choosing to ignore AOPA's proposed changes, the FAA stated that since they had originally proposed only editorial changes to that particular section of the regulation they were not required to consider the comments.� Consequently, these portions of the final rule remain unchanged, and the pilot of a jump aircraft remains the sole individual responsible for the actions of skydivers jumping from his/her aircraft.

AOPA position:

Although we are pleased that the FAA has removed the proposed accident reporting provision from the final rule, AOPA is concerned with the safety and enforcement action implications of two issues the FAA elected not to address.� In general, we contend that it is in the best interest of aviation safety to provide notification of active skydiving operations through ATC notification and NOTAMs.� This ensures that adequate notification is provided to non-participating VFR pilots in the area.� AOPA viewed this Part 105 rewrite as a golden opportunity to address this important safety concern.� AOPA believes that although FSS contact and NOTAM dissemination is implicit in the regulations, a simple language clarification would greatly improve aviation safety by clearly stating that the filing of a NOTAM is required prior to commencing jump activity.

Most important, AOPA is concerned with the ongoing requirement that the pilot in command of a jump aircraft be held responsible for the actions of a skydiver after that individual leaves the aircraft.� As stated before, the Part 105 rewrite was an excellent opportunity to address all aspects of the regulation, not just those selected by the administration.� It seems to defy logic that a pilot on board a jump aircraft can exercise any control over a skydiver in freefall.� Since skydivers do not hold FAA certificates, it appears that the FAA is seeking to hold the pilot accountable for the actions of the skydivers simply because the pilot is the only one subject to FAA enforcement action.

Status:

�                     On May 9, 2001, the FAA issued, as a final rule, the new Part 105 skydiving regulations.

�                     On July 12, 1999, AOPA submitted comments to the FAA regarding the content of the proposed skydiving regulations.�� AOPA is awaiting a formal response from the FAA and will update the members as this situation develops.

�                     On April 13, 1999, the FAA proposed changes to FAR Part 105.

Related documents:

Final Part 105, May 9, 2001 (requires Adobe Reader)

FAA, 14 C.F.R. Parts 65, 91, 105, and 119 Parachute Operations; Proposed Rule, April 13, 1999 (requires Adobe Reader)

AOPA comments to 14 C.F.R. Parts 65, et.al., Proposed Rule, July 12, 1999