Tragedy spotlights loose skydiving regulation
The incident is shining a light on an industry that has almost no regulation.Except there is, in fact, regulation.
The Federal Aviation Administration does, however, set guidelines for tandem jumps like Winoker's. Each such jump requires two parachutes and each instructor needs a minimum of three years experience and 500 jumps.Which sounds a lot like regulation to me. And nobody suggests that either the instructor or the company he worked for had violated even the smallest one of those regulations. Or even that skydiving is - statistically - an especially deadly thing to do.
But experience and equipment are only part of the equation. The USPA says instructors must pass an FAA medical exam - the same exam private pilots undergo.
The United States Parachute Association says 3 million people skydive in this country every year.That's three million skydivers. Presumably a lot of them do it more than once a year. So that's 21 fatalities in how many jumps? Nine million? Twelve million? More?
In 2011, there were 21 related fatalities. Of those, just one was a tandem jump like Winoker's.
So let's recap: We've got an anecdotal tragedy in which two guys jumped out of an airplane and subsequently died. I'm very sorry that happened, but I also know which alternate behavior could have prevented the tragedy. I practice it every day. I have not jumped out of an airplane every single day, almost 21,000 times, and I'm not a grease spot. So my way works.
On the other hand, some people seem to enjoy jumping out of airplanes and most of them don't die, either. Still: You're jumping out of a frickin' airplane, man, and you're hoping to be saved by a piece of nylon. I presume everyone who does this is aware that there may be some small element of risk. I presume nobody is being pushed out of the airplane. Because that would be wrong. If pushing unwilling people out of airplanes is not currently against some law, I hereby suggest that it really ought to be.
Short of that, though, what's the problem? How would stricter regulation have prevented this tragedy? The writer/advocate never gets around to mentioning specifically how he'd have fixed this. But I can guess that "ban the sport" at least briefly crossed his mind.