Nine Recent Skydiving Fatalities … Is FAA Taking Any Action?

It seems as if, even when the safety failures result in fatalities, FAA stands back and takes no action. Where aviation money is being made: “The Show Must Go on!”

(click on image to view CBS News video)

Jumps continued despite the fatal accident. Owner Bill Dause said he sympathized but it was just an accident. (click on image to view CBS News video)

Nine have died in four recent fatal accidents related to skydiving operations (links below lead to archived PDF copies of news articles, at pages 2 thru 5 of this Post):

  1. Monday, May 23rd, at Kauai, HI [PHPA]: five died, including two tandem ‘students’ when the jump plane crashed on takeoff
  2. Sunday, June 6th, at Chester, SC [KDCM]: a 32-yr-old man was killed
  3. Sunday, July 24th, at Cushing, OK [KCUH]: a 26-yr-old woman was killed
  4. Saturday, August 6th, at Acampo, CA, [1O3] near Lodi: an uncertified tandem ‘instructor’ from South Korea (age 25) and his 18-yr-old male ‘student’ were killed.

The circumstances around the Acampo double-fatal accident are particularly disturbing. There, a mother of a recent high school graduate who was soon to start college paid $175 for a tandem jump to reward her son. He and a friend viewed part-way through a so-called ‘training video’, then were rushed into gear and onto a flight for their tandem jumps. Neither the main parachute nor the backup parachute deployed for the accident tandem pair. Amazingly, the aircraft continued to load and drop jumpers; the show went on and no action was taken to protect others from the unknown cause.

FAA’s ‘oversight’ of skydiving is at a long arm’s-length. In this and many other aviation activities, FAA only pretends to regulate, and delegates all responsibilities to a private group, in this case to the U.S. Parachute Association. Hence, in the case of the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center double-fatal accident, both FAA and USPA are said to be ‘investigating’, but only USPA has taken any certificate action: they suspended Bill Dause, the owner, which prevents him from ‘instructing’, but allows the main-moneymaker tandem operations to continue. News articles indicate there was another fatal accident by the same outfit earlier this year, and the articles also indicate Mr. Dause’s operation had been investigated and fines proposed repeatedly by FAA. Now we have a double-fatal, yet FAA has still not taken action to shut down the operation.

As one reader emailed: “I think that part of the problem is that “Bucket-list” type movies are promoting more one-time experiences with skydiving. Our thrill-seeking hedonistic culture treats business as a religion that somehow has the inherent right to trash the environment without personal accountability. And add to that, both the FAA and the USPA have a vested interest in seeing the number of skydivers go up and up.”