Skydive Cape Cod

Locals Come Together to Ban Skydiving in Cape Cod

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It’s been a few years since the request to renew Skydive Cape Cod’s contract at The Chatham Municipal Airport was declined. Some of the residents are pleased with the outcome and others carry on without any concern. However, if this ban can continue could this affect other businesses in the future?

Residents who live near the airport feel that skydiving is unsafe and it disrupts the community. No matter where you live you have the right to voice your concerns about safety. However, are the concerns of a few justifiable to the point where it takes away enjoyment for the rest of the community? If you live in a neighborhood that is near a local bar, do residents have the right to petition and shut down a local business or limit their hours of operation? What if you live on a busy street where there is a lot of traffic and community events? Do you have the right to petition and have local events banned? Could downtown residents complain about the nightlife and come together to institute a curfew? Harding’s Beach in Chatham is a popular area of town, could residents protest about the high amounts of traffic? If this ban is allowed to continue and essentially be approved this could give way for other protests.

Essentially no matter where you live there will be certain aspects that you may not be too fond of. However, it comes with the territory. It should be considered that if you decide to live in areas that have popular attractions and high noise levels you can either accept it or find another area more conducive to your liking.

“We were pleased by the judge’s decision, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that the Chatham airport is operated in a safe manner that protects the interest of airport neighbors, as well as all of the citizens of Chatham,” Ira H. Zaleznik, the attorney for Citizens for A Safe Chatham Airport, said in a statement. In result, a Barnstable Superior Court Judge Robert Rufo set a trial date for December 4th to proceed with the determination of the ban. The decision to continue to ban skydiving activities in Chatham has caught the attention of The Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA ruled that the skydiving ban must be lifted as Chatham continues to accept millions of dollars in federal funding to continue the improvement of the George Ryder Road facility. The FAA ordered the town to begin their search for a skydiving vendor. However, since the motion was filed to set the court date there has been no further pursuit of finding a vendor, nor has the FAA continued to push their demands. City officials are set to make a decision in the upcoming weeks to determine whether to continue the holding off of the contract until the case is tried.

Who would have thought that an enjoyable recreational activity would cause so much of an uproar? As Chatham enters its fourth summer season of no skydiving it comes with negative outcomes.

Locals who enjoy the sport will have to find other ways to enjoy their spare time but a local company is seeing a decrease in profit. It’s a benefit to competing counterparts but the local business who owns and operates the facility is seeing a decline in profit. Furthermore, what if the claim goes through and skydiving is permanently banned at the airport? That will still not eliminate the concern for noise levels and safety measures. The Chatham Municipal Airport is open to general aviation activities year-round. With airplanes taking off and landing at the airport daily, there is no way to put a filter on the noise levels. According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s master record it is estimated that Chatham’s airport can average around 26,000 aircraft operations in a 12-month time span. Regardless of whether skydiving is banned or not, it’s not going to eliminate the noise level completely. Skydiving is a way to generate revenue to improve the town’s economy. When there are more attractions available in Chatham it will attract people in and out of town to participate in those activities as well as spend their hard-earned money locally. This is something the residents may need to consider.

Comments 1

  1. I just stumbled on your commentary on the current lack of a skydive contract in Chatham. Yes, skydiving is unsafe and it does disrupt the community. Federal aeronautics regulations prohibit skydiving over congested areas. The NTSB has determined congested areas include roads, beaches, clusters of houses, etc., essentially anywhere there is a presence of people on the ground. Chatham has around 60,000 residents and visitors in the summer months packed into a small area. The airport is in the center of all this activity. The FAA has never issued a Certificate of Authorization to exempt skydiving from this prohibition. The reason? There are no mitigating conditions that will prevent a failed parachute from creating a hazard to people on the ground. The FAA, MassDOT, Town of Chatham, Airport Manager, USPA (as well as skydive operators) all exempt or indemnify themselves from liability in the case of a skydiving mishap. A curious requirement given it’s such a “safe” sport.

    While skydivers may chose to except the risk associated with their sport, I don’t choose to accept it for my family and property on the ground beneath this activity. It is fundamental to FAA policy on safety to respect the right of non-participants of skydiving to choose to not accept that risk. Do your research.

    Opposition to the noise from Chatham’s skydive operation was (and remains) widespread. Residents who were sick of the skydiving packed a number of town meetings to voice their displeasure with this disruptive activity. Supporters on the other hand were largely limited to a handful of people who profited. This fact was not lost on the town selectmen.

    Regarding your observation that those of us who don’t like noisy skydiving should move, that argument goes both ways. I choose to remain in Chatham and I will fight for my rights to do so without the nuisance of skydiving over my house.

    Toward the end of the skydiving season in 2013 I was approached by a USPA T&SA who had worked for two seasons in Chatham. He contacted me because he just quit his job in Chatham over his deep frustration with what he alleged as an increasingly reckless and dangerous operation. He described a very challenging parachute landing area, coercion to jump in unsafe winds, an instructor with falsified credentials, packing of parachutes while under the influence of alcohol, and more. He told me he filed reports with the USPA. We will never know the content because the USPA routinely destroys those reports. It is my belief that it was the abuses in Chatham that led to the USPA banning low hook turns.

    The skydive operator in Chatham had been evicted from its previous drop zone for a continuing pattern of safety violations. That behavior continued in Chatham. It crashed a plane into a pond because it flew without sufficient gas, an FAA violation. It seriously injured a woman on a “hard” landing, the result of an under skilled instructor practicing the very dangerous hook turn in windy conditions with the woman strapped to his chest. He crushed her legs. Skydiving continued in Chatham through clouds (prohibited by the FAA) and in high and gusty winds. If you are knowledgable regarding skydiving safety you know this is ill advised, especially for tandem parachute operations where most clients are oblivious to the risk.

    Regarding the so call economic benefits to Chatham? The town received not one dime from any of these operations. And your figure of 26,000 aircraft operations a year in Chatham? It’s a lie. Actual numbers are far closer to 6,000. The airport manager has admitted in public meetings that the figures were inflated. By the way, MassDOT Aeronautics Division refuses to release the data behind its much touted economic study of the benefits of Massachusetts general aviation airports. They claim they destroyed the data. Another lie?

    No way to filter engine noise? Actually there is. It’s called a muffler. And more to the point, FAA policy and common sense suggest that airports are responsible for the noise they make and it is not unreasonable to expect them to try to mitigate that noise.

    So yes, I read your piece and gave it due consideration. Maybe you could give my perspective a shot at enlightenment.

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