Packed and prepped parachute? Check. Airplane? Check. Licensed pilot? Check. Airport? Umm, let’s check on that.
Avid skydiver enthusiasts everywhere have long known how difficult it can be to find a proper place to take off from. Though the sport has experienced a massive surge in popularity over the past 20 years, the general public remains skeptical.
This is the case in Casa Grande. Located in the deserts of Arizona, about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, it is an area with a rich history of extreme sports acceptance. It is odd, then, that a local skydiving company has run into difficulty with the local government.
Phoenix Area Skydiving has been cited by Pinal County that they are unable to continue to conduct their drops in the current location. The company is currently dropping off skydivers about 3 miles north of the municipal airport as the city of Casa Grande has prohibited any on-site area drops. The city has cited safety as the reason for placing the embargo on drops inside of the municipal airport space.
Both parties have reasons for their argument. Luckily, the ordeal will be resolved soon as the FAA has determined that they will rule on the issue soon.
The case as a whole brings up a larger issue. As skydivers are becoming more and more prevalent, there seems to be a sort of pushback from those outside the sport. While 500,000 people perform jumps every year, the vast majority of the population has yet to experience the thrill. Moreover, there is a resistance to accept skydiving as a proper sport, hobby, or activity. Citing greater public safety is the leading way that local governments have sought to limit the prevalence of skydiving. However, there is more to it than that.
The issue, in reality, lies largely in the sector of personal liberties. There is simply no greater risk in skydiving than there is with a great number of personal hobbies and activities. In fact, an argument can be made that the perceived risks involved in skydiving have created a greater awareness of safety. Pilots, instructors and divers alike are all more than conscious of the necessity of remaining within FAA and USPA guidelines.
The question remains as to how the sport of skydiving can best make the larger public aware that, with proper precautions in place, this is a safe activity. The most obvious answer is to get more people to try it for themselves. This is already being done, as skydiving rates are at an all time high. It also doesn’t quite work, as proven by the fact that Arizona, the site of the Casa Grande case, plays host to the highest number jumps every year.
Perhaps there simply is no answer, and the public will always have a certain perception of the sport of skydiving. To be honest, maybe that is the way it is meant to be. Real or not, the perceived risks that come with free falling through the sky are part of the draw. The thrills involved may be derived from the idea of the sport being dangerous, and that may just be the reason we were all drawn into our first dive.