Gearing Up - July 2016
July is the month when we reflect on our freedoms, but we should also reflect on the challenges and sacrifices those freedoms required. The July 4, 1776, signing of the Declaration of Independence did not actually make us independent; armed conflict began 15 months earlier at Concord and Lexington, and the resulting war lasted more than eight years. Many of the signers lost everything; some—along with 25,000 citizen-soldiers—lost their lives. Nearly the whole populace suffered hardship but prevailed and became a nation.
Today, America enjoys more individual freedoms than any other country. Among those freedoms is the ease-of-use of our national airspace system. There aren’t many countries where a pilot can fly point to point in 99 percent of airspace without government interaction. Or where skydiving can occur with no more than a simple notification to air traffic control. But don’t take these freedoms for granted, because there have been many proposals and actions to restrict and even remove them. Here is a brief recap of USPA’s (and predecessor organization the Parachute Club of America’s) most important efforts:
- 1965—The airlines persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to propose prohibiting jumps in most airspace and on airports. PCA prevails and the proposal is withdrawn.
- 1966—PCA defeats another FAA proposal to require air-traffic-control authorization for jumps in all airspace.
- 1973—USPA quashes yet another FAA proposal to restrict jumps to approved “columns of air.”
- 1979—USPA helps the general aviation community defeat an FAA proposal that would have limited jumps to 10,000 feet.
- 1997—The Internal Revenue Service rules that jump tickets are subject to a 10-percent federal ticket tax. USPA successfully lobbies for an exemption in the tax bill.
- 2008—USPA convinces the FAA not to pursue imposing stringent standards on jump planes carrying 20 or more passengers.
- 2014—The FAA proposes standards that would require federal approval of on-airport jumps. USPA efforts result in the FAA’s withdrawal of the proposal.
USPA hasn’t just reacted to overreaching government proposals; it has also been proactive in advancing skydiving’s best interests:
- 1978—USPA convinces the FAA to recognize skydiving as an aeronautical activity, which grants skydivers the right to access federally funded airports.
- 2001—The 9/11 attacks ground all aviation, but USPA gets skydivers back in the air nine days later, sooner than other segments of aviation.
- 2002—USPA works with the Transportation Security Administration to allow rigs, with and without automatic activation devices, as carry-on or checked items.
- 2004—USPA works with the TSA to reinstate exhibition jumps into stadiums, which it had prohibited after 9/11.
- 2005—The FAA begins requiring expensive terrain-avoidance systems in all turbine airplanes, except—at USPA’s insistence—jump planes.
- 2008—USPA joins the Parachute Industry Association in persuading the FAA to lengthen the reserve repack interval to 180 days.
- 2009—USPA implements programs in reaction to National Transportation Safety Board recommendations on aircraft inspections and pilot training, pre-empting plans for FAA regulations.
- 2013—USPA secures a U.S. Department of Transportation letter stating that the Anti-Head Tax Act exempts certain state and local taxes on skydiving.
Freedoms are rarely given and must be earned. Once earned, they are not immune from new challenges and must be defended. Through the decades, USPA has helped skydivers earn—and defend—a rightful place in this nation’s airspace. As we celebrate America’s birth 240 years ago, we also celebrate USPA’s 70th birthday and the reasons we join together—to ensure our freedom to enjoy the sky.