Gearing Up - January 2010

As the USPA staff prepares the 2010 budget for review and approval at the February board meeting, we first determine the issues and initiatives that need to be addressed in the new year. In government relations, USPA has developed winning strategies that assist current and prospective DZOs with their airport access issues. These days, more often than not, skydiving is securing its right of access to airports that receive federal funding. But the workload on staff is demanding, so we’re determined to put more resources on our web site so that airport access issues become more do-it-yourself, under USPA guidance, while still remaining successful.

We’ll get help, too, from a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory circular on parachute operations that is nearing completion (assisted by USPA) and should do much to ease airport manager and pilot concerns about skydiving. USPA and the FAA are also developing a safety audit matrix to be used by FAA personnel who are often asked to evaluate the safety and compatibility of skydiving at a particular airport. Currently there is no guidance for an evaluation, and the result can be quite subjective—we’ve encountered FAA denials (all overturned) based on things such as concerns about skydiving integrating with non-radio-equipped aircraft, a weekly jet operation and a little-used instrument approach. A matrix will help quantify the kinds and level of airport activity, and will then suggest specific mitigating procedures that improve skydiving’s compatibility with other activities on that airport.

These initiatives will free up staff time and allow USPA to prepare for coming federal aviation initiatives like:

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, e.g. pilotless aircraft). UAS are currently in military use, and commercial companies are ready to use them in the U.S. in a variety of roles such as mapping, surveillance and environmental studies. There are industry working groups already planning how to integrate these unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. USPA will ensure that parachute operations are taken to account as part of that planning process.

NextGen. NextGen is the name of the FAA plan to transform the entire national airspace system to the next generation of air traffic control (ATC). By 2018, under NextGen, the FAA will do away with land-based navigation stations and implement satellite-based point-to-point navigation, digital communications and other technological innovations projected to reduce aircraft separation while allowing those aircraft to fly more direct routes. Jump planes will need that technology because their pilots are required to participate in ATC services.

Automatic Dependant Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B is a satellite-based datalink technology that transmits aircraft position and altitude to air traffic controllers and nearby aircraft. Over the next 12 years, the FAA plans for ADS-B to replace air traffic control radar. This will mean that operators will have to equip aircraft with some form of avionics, but the aviation community expects many side benefits including cockpit displays showing other aircraft in the area, real-time weather and texted flight advisories. Parachute operations will benefit when all other aircraft can see and know precisely when and where skydiving is occurring.

USPA has already secured an appointment to a new Federal Advisory Committee on the Future of Aviation. We’re also working with the FAA officials who are developing plans for integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system. And we’re identifying the several other committees and working groups being formed to transition to new aviation technologies and procedures. USPA will ensure that skydiving’s airspace and airport needs are fully understood and accommodated by system planners. Changes are coming to aviation and your association is taking the necessary steps now to make sure that skydiving remains an accepted and integrated part of aviation far into the future.

Blue skies,

Ed Scott | D-13532 | USPA Executive Director


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